Parking fines and fees quietly dumped across Melbourne during lockdown

Melbourne motorists have never had a better chance to avoid parking fines, with 31 councils across the city's inner suburbs quietly winding down enforcement amid tough stage four restrictions.

The Victorian government issued a directive to metropolitan Melbourne councils a week ago, instructing them to only enforce parking restrictions where essential.

Motorists have never had a better chance to avoid a parking fine. Credit:Eddie Jim

"In relation to parking in these councils, councils are only permitted to enforce essential parking restrictions where these relate to issues of safety and access," the directive, issued by acting Local Government Victoria executive director Colin Morrison, said.

"This includes vehicles in No Standing Zones blocking access to private property or bus lanes and vehicles parked in disabled car parks without the necessary permit."

The response from councils has been mixed: Stonnington has stopped sending parking inspectors to retail areas including the Chapel Street precinct, while continuing to issue fines where there is limited parking.

"During the pandemic, we have significantly reduced parking enforcement, and are generally only enforcing time restrictions on request by residents where there is a lack of parking available in an area," a spokesman said.

"We have scaled back our operations and are applying a common-sense approach to enforcement that will best work where people do the right thing, and don’t abuse the system."

The City of Melbourne has suspended parking fines in green zones – where there are time limits for parking – altogether for the duration of stage four restrictions, in response to the directive.

The instruction came after Royal Melbourne Hospital anaesthetics registrar Katarina Arandjelovic sparked headlines across the country when she took to social media to protest copping a parking fine after working 56 hours over four days in the hospital's intensive care unit.

"In lockdown, who do you think is parking in the streets by the hospital? It is the doctors, nurses, orderlies, pharmacists, physios, technicians, cleaners, cooks, ward clerks," she said.

"So when you send a parking inspector to Parkville, know that it is these people you are targeting."

The case sparked outrage, with Premier Daniel Andrews weighing in at his daily media briefing to say parking inspectors shouldn't be targeting people working to save lives.

But the case exposed one of the local government sector's major revenue measures: parking fees and fines.

The City of Melbourne raised $38.5 million in parking fines in the 2019-20 financial year. This was a far cry from the previous financial year, when it raked in $93 million in parking fines. Its most recent annual report said the city had reduced the volume of infringements issued.

City of Melbourne chief executive Justin Hanney said his council had wound back all restrictions and fees in green-signed parking bays during stage four restrictions.

Boroondara city planning director Shiran Wickramasinghe said the council wound back parking restrictions in April, and is now only enforcing red signs, which include no-standing signs and clearways.

"At the start of April this year council decided to suspend ticket parking machines, ease parking controls at under-utilised car parks, and not enforce time restrictions in residential areas and parking spaces within close proximity to hospitals and Centrelink offices," he said.

Parking restrictions in red zones will still be enforced, as well as carparks near supermarkets.

Darebin, Moreland and Yarra councils have also wound back enforcing restrictions on green signed areas.

"We ask that residents continue to be good neighbours and park considerately and safely in line with the parking signs in their streets," Darebin mayor Susan Rennie said.

Monash University urban planning expert Dr Elizabeth Taylor said parking inspectors should continue patrolling for safety reasons, but that it was politically unwise for councils to fine drivers in empty commercial zones during stage four restrictions.

However, she said parking management wasn’t about revenue raising and was important to divide up kerb space.

“There's only so much street parking space to go around, which is part of that issue,” she said.

“Everybody wants it for free, and there's just not an infinite amount of it."

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