It seems parking has always been a thorny issue in the ACT but fines handed out at school fetes this spring have certainly hit some raw nerves.
Fete organisers for St Thomas the Apostle Primary School in Kambah wrote to the Government about what the Canberra Liberals called parking inspectors’ predatory practices. They allege the event was targeted and have asked for dozens of fines to be waived.
Hang on a bit, the Government said, people broke the law and the rules are there for a reason, whether that be for safety or environmental reasons.
And there were ways for schools to work with authorities to manage event parking. On the day in question, the infamous Licence Plate Recognition van visited two other schools without registering a fine.
While at first blush it may seem that a little discretion could be shown for these one-off events, the comments on the story were not one-way traffic, with plenty of support for the Government’s position, and law and order in general.
St Thomas is but one of a number of school fetes that has fallen foul of parking inspectors who police events, not necessarily school fetes, to ensure public safety, and that nature strips and trees are protected.
To suggest that the practice is predatory may be an easy headline but it ignores the fact that the inspectors are serving a public interest, not merely revenue-raising as many Canberrans seem to think when it comes to traffic regulation in this city.
Of course, the angst among the schools affected is understandable. Who expects to cop a $123 fine at your local fete? And there is scope for discretion. But we also heard from people who were there on the day that some of the parking was clearly not safe.
The Government says Access Canberra can help schools and others prepare for their events and manage their parking.
Was that known to the schools? Did the schools advise fete goers to stick to designated parking areas, obey the signs and stay off grassed areas? Was priority parking available for volunteers and people who may not be able to walk long distances?
How proactive has Access Canberra been in reaching out to schools in what is a busy fete season to head off these situations? Is it possible for some one-off exemptions to be issued?
The issue has shone a light on how a little more communication all-round and some preparation could go a long way toward making the situation clear for everybody.
But human behaviour being what it is, sometimes the only way for some people to get the message is to be hit in the hip pocket.
Because, just like for speeding or drink driving, the laws are there for a reason and breaking them can have serious consequences, least of which is being out of pocket.