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Councillors want first city parking fine free

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Several city councillors have endorsed automatically waiving parking fines for first offenders – plus forming a panel that would be empowered to cancel tickets on “compassionate” grounds.

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Central Ward councillor Houssam Abiad told a council committee meeting on Tuesday evening that people who get parking fines are “customers of the city” and should be treated as such.

“I think we should waive all first-time … overstaying [fines],” he told the meeting.

“Shit happens … we get it.”

Area councillor Sandy Wilkinson told InDaily this morning that waiving a person’s first-ever fine would be “good PR” for the city, and help CBD traders compete with suburban shopping centres.

“We want to encourage people to come into the city, and copping a parking fine – which you will never get at Westfield [shopping centre…] – leaves a bitter taste in peoples’ mouth,” he said.

South Ward councillor Priscilla Corbell said it was a good idea, adding that first offenders should be given “warning stickers” on their windshields to discourage future offending.

“If they’re a first offender, maybe we could stick on a warning sticker that says ‘you could have got a fine [but didn’t…] – it’s been noted in the system and please do the right thing’,” Corbell said.

Associate director for the council’s customer division, Vanessa Godden, told the committee meeting that the council did not have the technology necessary to allow parking inspectors to know on the spot how many times a vehicle had received a fine in the past.

But she said the technology exists, and was used by authorities in other jurisdictions.

A number of councillors also argued that parking signage was often difficult to read, and that motorists sometimes got “pinged” despite trying to comply with the law.

Area councillor Natasha Malani said city parking signs were often confusing.

Describing one city street, she told the meeting: “It’s a bit of a fucking nightmare, frankly.”

“Inevitably they [misread] it, and then they get pinged.”

Abiad also advocated for a parking fine “panel” to be established – with councillors as members – which would consider waiving fines on “compassionate” grounds.

He added that it “always feels like there is a discrepancy” between the standards expected by councillors – when it comes to which fines should be cancelled – and their implementation by council staff.

The council’s administration is currently considering submissions to a tender to install “smart parking” technology throughout the CBD.

The project involves installing hundreds of sensors in on-street parking bays and linking them to a mobile application that would allow motorists to “top up” their parking rather than receive a fine for overstaying.

Users would receive reminder notifications on their phone when the parking was close to expiring.

Haese remarked that the technology – due to be ready within 12 months – “will solve many of these problems by putting the choice back into the hands of (motorists)”.

Area councillor Anne Moran told the meeting she was concerned that the council’s parking inspectors were a “rather dour presence” on city streets and “very few will say ‘hi’ and look friendly”.

North Ward councillor Phil Martin said he felt sorry for parking inspectors and that there must not be “much joy in the job”.

Godden remarked that it was “unhelpful to criticise them (parking inspectors) because it gives everyone else permission to do the same”.

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