Major change after Aussie drivers hit with surge in 'unfair' fines

Ticketless parking fines have coincided with a boom in revenue for NSW, but local councils have been told to change their ways.

Road users in one Aussie state have been getting some seriously unwanted surprises in the mail in recent years after an experimental parking fine process was brought in – but that looks set to change.

The NSW government has stepped in and reportedly written to all 128 local councils over the weekend to halt the further adoption of ticketless parking fines and encourage changes to the scheme after a surge in revenue from parking fines delivered to unsuspecting motorists.

The Northern Beaches Council announced earlier this month it was moving to ticketless parking fines, joining more than 40 other local councils which have made the move, sparking concerns about the ability of drivers to contest infringement notices which don't turn up until days or weeks later.

Cars seen parked on a busy Sydney road.
Councils have been ordered to change how they deliver parking fines. Source: City of Sydney

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

The 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 has coincided with a surge in revenue.

However local councils have now been ordered to revert to traditional ticketing methods and ensure drivers are made aware of the fine at the time of the offence.

"The current implementation of the ticketless parking system has eroded trust in the parking fine system," Houssos wrote.

"I am requesting your council enhances your parking fine processes so that drivers are provided immediate, written notification at the time they are issued with a parking fine ... this could be as simple as a note which could take the form of a standardised, pre-printed card."

The minister cited key concerns prompting the new directive, including the reduced impact of a fine to act as an immediate deterrent and the difficulty for motorists to gather evidence to dispute a fine after the fact.

A ranger using the digital system to issue a fine in Northern Beaches NSW.
The ticketless system was used to issue 749,000 fines in 2023. Source: Northern Beaches Council/Facebook

'Unfair' system leads to boom in fine revenue

The NRMA has been a vocal critic of the scheme labelling it "unfair", and telling Yahoo News Australia last week that ticketless fines significantly reduced transparency.

"While we understand councils have to manage parking and we can't have people abusing the system, [the move] reduces the ability for those who feel they have a right to contest [their fine]," spokesperson Peter Khoury said. That includes instances where there is inadequate signage, where a sign is hidden, or other circumstances that may mean a review of a fine is successful, he said.

As Houssos wrote to councillors; "Providing immediate notification to drivers is the right thing to do and is an important first step to restoring community trust in the administration of the fines system."

According to the Daily Telegraph, nearly $140 million in revenue in 2023 came from councils using the ticketless system, with more than 749,000 fines issued.

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