By Katie Johnson
The City of Melbourne has suspended parking restrictions and fees in green sign parking bays after a fine issued to an ICU doctor sparked community outrage.
Despite having parked in a red zone, Royal Melbourne Hospital doctor Katarina Arandjelovic received a $99 parking fine on the August 11 after finishing a long shift and took to Twitter to express her frustration.
In a tweet to Lord Mayor Sally Capp and the council, she said that after working 56 hours in four days “helping look after some of our state’s sickest patients”, the parking fine was an unwelcome discovery.
“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,” Dr Arandjelovic tweeted.
“So, when you send a parking inspector to Parkville, know that it is these people you are targeting.”
In response, the City of Melbourne tweeted, “vehicles parked in residential parking areas with red signs are still subject to restrictions”—which was met with a torrent of angry replies.
To quell the community response, the City of Melbourne withdrew the fine and later announced the council would be issuing 5000 additional temporary parking permits for frontline workers.
“Sorry we missed the mark on this tweet,” the City of Melbourne tweeted.
“Given your critical role, we have withdrawn the fine. Royal Melbourne Hospital is being provided with additional frontline worker permits. Please grab one! We have given out 8000 so far to nurses and doctors.”
Lord Mayor Sally Capp said that the 5000 additional permits meant that up to 15,000 permits had been issued to frontline workers in total.
“Health workers are doing an amazing job at this difficult time. We understand they are playing a critical role saving the lives of many Victorians who have been diagnosed with COVID-19,” the Lord Mayor said.
However, when Premier Daniel Andrews was asked about Dr Arandjelovic’s fine during a press conference on August 12, he said that he would “follow up on that matter” as essential workers should not be receiving parking fines at all.
“I don’t think that someone who’s in there literally saving lives at considerable risk to themselves should be the subject of a parking ticket,” Premier Andrews said.
When asked if parking inspectors should be an essential service, Mr Andrews said that he would clarify with the council.
“They don’t work for the Victorian government, but their status can be determined by us and I’m more than happy to chase that up,” he said.
The Premier’s intervention resulted in parking fines in green sign areas being suspended throughout the municipality during Stage Four lockdown on August 14.
City of Melbourne CEO Justin Hanney said that parking officers would still be considered essential workers and “will continue to be visible on our streets.”
“They play an important role in managing public safety and road access for residents, essential workers and emergency service vehicles,” Mr Hanney said.
During lockdown, parking officers will still be enforcing restrictions for red sign parking bays including no-stopping areas, loading zones, tow-way clearings, disability parking spaces and any other case where a vehicle creates a risk to public safety or access.
The decision to suspend minor parking fines has been a welcome development to many CBD residents such as Chriss Mannix, who questioned whether parking inspectors should fall under the category of “essential”.
“A question I would love to have answered is why parking officers are considered to be essential workers when an accountant can’t work alone in their own office. I can’t see how they fit in the framework provided,” Mr Mannix said.
Another CBD resident, Lisa Moses, said that it had been disheartening to see fines still being handed out during lockdown.
“I saw one putting a ticket on someone’s window in City Rd the other day. I too wondered why they were still out walking around, revenue raising no doubt. And there are so many car parks empty. But still out trying to find the odd one to fine,” Ms Moses said.
But Cr Rohan Leppert said that the new suspension on parking fines would encourage people to break the rules.
“This entire idiotic debate is being carried out on the basis that there is an endless supply of on street carparking,” Cr Leppert said.
“When I get flooded with emails from residents who can’t park within cooee of their homes despite having a residential permit that they’ve paid for, what do I do? Send them to the Premier?”
To combat this issue, Justin Hanney said that the council was working with state government to have commercial car parks re-opened to take pressure off on-street car parking.
“We understand that these restrictions will also impact our residents using residential permit zones and we will continue to advocate on their behalf,” Mr Hanney said •
For more information: melbourne.vic.gov.au/parking