Parking: fine for them, fines for us

THE Newcastle City Council unit that dishes out more than $1000 worth of parking fines every hour appears itself to be flouting the city's parking rules by ignoring posted time restrictions within view of City Hall.

The Newcastle Herald this week observed and photographed three brightly marked council compliance vehicles parked longer than the two-hour limit in Laman Street.

A compliance vehicle pictured on Monday at 2.38pm

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The council said yesterday that "compliance staff members have been reminded of their obligations to comply with the road rules" and that the circumstances would be reviewed before a decision was made on possible further action.

When asked whether the non-compliance of compliance officers had undermined their authority to issue parking infringement notices across the city, the council said it would continue to apply and enforce parking restrictions "consistently for all road users".

"Council is mindful that officers need to set an example to the community by complying with the law," a spokeswoman said.

"If any council staff members are found in breach of the road rules or any exemptions that may apply, they are liable to be issued with a fine in the same way that any other driver is."

The same vehicle pictured above on Monday at 4.50pm

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Under NSW law, authorised officers or road workers "driving a vehicle in the course of his or her duty" are exempt from parking restrictions.

But at any other time the restrictions apply. The council has insisted its parking compliance officers are able to use discretion when handing out infringement notices and do not have fine quotas, but business owners, residents and council staff have all complained about an apparent hard-line approach to parking.

Council staff members at the library and art gallery witnessed the Herald taking photographs of compliance cars on Monday and Tuesday and said up to seven compliance cars at a time were parking on Laman Street.

Council compliance and other vehicles used to park behind the roundhouse administration building, on land that has been sold to the NSW government for the city's state courthouse development.

The council said alternative off-street parking arrangements had been made for council vehicles at the city's parking stations since the development began.

Council staff may, at their discretion, park on public roads "in accordance with the road rules" and Laman Street has recently been turned into a de facto council car park.

The idea of turning Laman Street into a council car park was an often-mentioned theory during the city's fig tree saga. Since the council was contacted by the Herald, compliance vehicles have disappeared from Laman Street.

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