On a quiet residential Sydney street, a stone’s throw from the Prime Minister’s second official residence at Kirribilli House, locals watched as five parking tickets were issued in the space of 15 minutes.
It would not be unusual except that the vehicle owners receiving the fines are in the middle of a two-week lockdown where the most important mandate from Premier Gladys Berejiklian is “don’t leave home unless absolutely necessary”.
Asked by residents why parking fines were being issued during a lockdown, inspectors told them there was “nothing we can do” and “follow the signs”.
“With everyone forced to work from home, many don’t have a garage or nearby all-day parking and therefore need to keep their car on the streets,” a resident told news.com.au.
“Obviously, Sydney has majority timed spaces.”
At Bondi, the situation is the same.
“This is a big issue in Bondi at the moment where I live,” a local woman said.
“We have no parking when everyone is staying home and parking is already tough.”
She said the parking system in Bondi works “on the premise that people are moving about the city” and most drive their cars to work, something that is not happening nearly as much in lockdown.
“I have to sometimes park in the two-hour spots near my house and move my car every two hours to avoid a fine.”
During Melbourne’s stage-four lockdown last year, the Victorian Government issued a directive to metropolitan Melbourne councils to use discretion.
The City of Melbourne responded by suspending parking fines in green zones where there are time limits.
But there is no such directive in Sydney. Three Sydney councils told news.com.au fines are being issued as usual during lockdown with some small changes where possible.
A spokesman for North Sydney Council, which covers Kirribilli, said council parking inspectors are “continually monitoring parking usage in our area, as there has been more pressure placed on available spots during this lockdown period”.
She said “some of our residents have been complaining that they have been unable to access any parking due to the number of cars being left on the streets near their homes” and “our current parking restrictions are in place to ensure that there is a reasonable turnover of parking spaces and fair access for all users”.
Asked whether there would be leniency afforded to owners of vehicles who parked longer in timed parking zones than ordinarily allocated, she said: “Council’s parking inspectors are focusing on areas outside businesses where carparking turnover is required and areas where complaints are received.”
A City of Sydney spokeswoman said there has been “unprecedented pressure on our parking spaces and we have done our best to respond appropriately”.
“We appreciate that these are difficult and uncertain times,” she said.
“It is important for the City to balance the needs of our entire community — all our residents, businesses and visitors.
“As during the previous lockdown commencing in March 2020, the City will take a flexible approach to parking and other infringements with a focus on the safety of the community and its workforce. With limited space available, we have prioritised supporting emergency services and frontline workers.”
A spokeswoman for Waverley Council, which covers Bondi and the eastern suburbs, said there would be no changes to the way parking fines are issued despite residents being in lockdown.
“Timed parking zones are in place for the benefit of local businesses, residents and those using our parks and beaches,” she said.
“Council has Enforcement Staff on duty and we ask residents and visitors to adhere to parking restrictions for the benefit of all. Residents displaying residential parking permits within scheme areas can continue to park legally for the entire day.”
The approach is vastly different to what Melbourne councils did during lockdown in 2020.
City of Melbourne CEO Justin Hanney told news.com.au that “discretion” was used “in relation to overstays in general ‘green’ signed parking bays where there posed no risk to access, thoroughfare or safety”.
Additionally, the council issuedalmost 15,000 temporary parking permits to frontline health workers and other essential services and temporary free parking permits for food premises to help them deliver takeaway meals during lockdown.
Disputes about parking fines should be directed to Revenue NSW.
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