With the ACT Government’s revenue from traffic infringements predicted to more than double this financial year, a standing committee has been set up to examine the impact of the city centre’s lucrative new speed cameras.
It’s also been revealed that a proposal to send a warning letter to every motorist caught speeding in the new 40km/h zones in Civic during the grace period in July 2021 was explicitly rejected by government ministers.
The 2021-22 Budget Papers predicted the ACT Government’s traffic infringement revenue would more than double from $26.8 million in 2020-2021 to $58.9 million in 2021-2022.
However, it was noted this could decline in the forward estimates given “anticipated driver behavioural change”.
A standing committee comprising MLAs Jo Clay, Suzanne Orr and Mark Parton is currently investigating the impact of the new speed limits in Civic on commuters after a petition was tabled in the Assembly in September calling on the ACT Government to waive fines.
The ACT Opposition called on the government to drop all fines issued by the new cameras in July after the petition was signed by more than 1200 people.
At total of 6100 speeding infringements were issued in July 2021, totalling more than $5 million.
Since then, more than 1000 fines have been issued each week, a trend that has continued since the ACT’s COVID-19 lockdown began.
The committee is accepting submissions from Canberrans about their experience with the new speed limits until Monday, 18 October.
Mr Parton had previously labelled the spike in revenue – up to $1.6 million a week at its peak – as a “perverse outcome” for the cameras and criticised what he perceived as a communication failure on the ACT Government’s part.
Around 20,000 people sped through the cameras during the grace period, and none were issued with a warning letter.
At the time, the NRMA criticised this decision.
Now it’s been revealed the ACT Government knowingly rejected a proposal from ACT road officials to write a warning letter to every motorist caught speeding in the new zone due to the expected high cost of such an undertaking.
ACT Minister for Business and Better Regulation Tara Cheyne, and ACT Minister for Transport Chris Steel, rejected explicit proposals to send letters to motorists, with Ms Cheyne telling the ACT Legislative Assembly that sending a warning letter to every single driver would have been too expensive and would have required extensive resourcing.
She suggested that each letter would have cost more than $1 in postage and stationery, and that it would have been a significant use of staffing, amounting to costs somewhere in the vicinity of $300,000, “including the significant diversion of resources”.
Ms Cheyne also outlined the fact that there are 17 road signs showing the new speed limit on the roads, that there are variable messaging signs in use, and pointed to the fact that the ACT Government had run radio advertisements in peak-hour to warn commuters of the change.
Earlier this year, Mr Steel committed to boosting signage in the area after the initial community outcry when more than $5 million in fines were issued in one month.
In the cameras’ first 48 hours of operation, 5000 drivers reportedly breached the new speed limit and the government warned Canberrans to slow down.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr then had to apologise after suggesting on ABC Radio that motorists who had been caught speeding in the grace period had been issued warnings.
He later said warnings had been issued in many ways, just not through individual letters.
The speed limits are signposted before each of the cameras at the intersections of Northbourne Avenue and Barry Drive; Northbourne Avenue and London Circuit; and Barry Drive and Marcus Clarke Street.