Councils' controversial new paperless parking fines rack up $139 million: 'Eroded trust'

Multiple major councils around Sydney have brought in the "invisible" parking fine system.

Paperless parking tickets debate pictured with parking sign in Sydney.
Councils are still issuing paperless parking tickets despite a call to stop. Source: Twitter/Nine

Councils handing out ticketless parking fines are sticking to their guns despite concerns about the ability of drivers to contest infringement notices which don't turn up until days or weeks later.

Multiple major councils around Sydney recently moved to sending parking tickets through the mail, without leaving a notice on the car at the time of the offence. However in March, the state government stepped in and wrote to all 128 local councils asking them to halt the further adoption of ticketless parking fines and encouraged changes to the scheme after a surge in revenue from fines delivered to unsuspecting motorists.

According to the letter written to councillors by NSW Finance Minister Courtney Houssos, about 45 per cent of penalty notices issued in the state were parking infringements and 55 per cent of them had been administered via the ticketless scheme first introduced in May 2020.

The "invisible" system allows parking officers to "send details of a fine directly to Revenue NSW which then sends an infringement notice by post or the Service NSW app" and coincided with a surge in revenue.

But because drivers don't immediately know they've received a parking ticket, they are unable to gather potential evidence to dispute the charge. There is also less of a deterrent as drivers could conceivably rack up multiple fines before realising they had been charged.

"The current implementation of the ticketless parking system has eroded trust in the parking fine system," Houssos wrote, urging councillors to ensure motorists were left an "immediate, written notification" when fined.

However it appears the major councils have baulked at the directive, in some cases choosing to simply ignore it.

A parking inspector and a paper infringement notice pictured.
The ticketless system was used to issue 749,000 fines in 2023. Source: Northern Beaches Council/Facebook

Citing the safety of rangers, the councils issuing the most ticketless parking fines have refused the state government's request to stop, the ABC reports.

The City of Sydney said it had not stopped issuing ticketless parking fines but was still "reviewing" the request from the government, while North Sydney Council told the public broadcaster it had no plans to "voluntarily" return to a paper ticketing system, suggesting any compliance would have to be legally forced.

Further south, Canterbury-Bankstown Council told the ABC it was up to the parking officer's personal "discretion" whether an infringement notice was left on the car or not.

In certain cases, councils say rangers opt for paperless tickets when they fear potential anger from the public. That kind of harassment was on display this past week after a woman uploaded a video of her confronting a parking inspector in Sydney's Double Bay, where two-hour parking rules apply.

A Double Bay parking inspector confronted by a woman.
A parking inspector was filmed telling a woman to 'leave him alone' before pointing his finger and 'hitting' her phone. Source: Facebook

In the clip, as the council worker turns, abruptly pointing a finger toward her, telling her to "leave me alone", he appears to hit the woman's phone that she is using to record the incident. The woman gasps loudly before accusing him of "physically assaulting" her.

One council told the ABC such incidents had more than halved since the ticketless system was introduced.

According to figures from Revenue NSW, the 48 councils using the paperless scheme last year issued fines worth a combined $139.5 million.

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