The ACT government has defended its rollout of its tough new 40km/h city speed limits, as new figures reveal speed cameras in the zone have raked in more than $5 million in a month.
Almost 800 motorists have been slapped with a fine each day the cameras have been in use, with 23,803 infringements issued since July 5.
Some commuters have said they received five times in the space of a week, costing them upwards of $1500. Community anger has grown about what some motorists say is a lack of communication about the changes.
The speed limit was changed in March, while cameras caught 20,000 motorists speeding in a two-week grace period from June 21. The cameras began issuing infringements from July 5.
Better Regulation Minister Tara Cheyne defended the decision not to individually warn the 20,000 motorists caught speeding in the grace period, arguing it would have been a significant diversion of government resources.
Ms Cheyne was compelled to defend the communication strategy for the rollout of the lower speed limits when she faced a barrage of opposition questions in Legislative Assembly question time on Wednesday.
Three cameras, which monitor traffic on Northbourne Avenue and Barry Drive within the new speed zones, issued about $1.6 million worth of fines a week last month.
Ms Cheyne said there were 17 signs around the three cameras, and the speed limit was reduced to enhance pedestrian safety.
"With 20,000 vehicles detected committing an offence, sending a warning letter to every single driver would have been a manual process which would have been a significant diversion of resources," Ms Cheyne said.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr also apologised for suggesting motorists had been individually warned in a radio talkback segment last week, but said correcting the error had not been on his top-10 priority list.
"I don't know that this would be the top issue that we've been dealing with at the moment, frankly. In the middle of a pandemic, with massive implications, there are a lot of other issues on my desk at the moment," Mr Barr said.
"I apologise for the error. There was a lot of warnings given, but it would appear not individual warnings to individual motorists by way of letter."
The Chief Minister appeared on ABC Radio Canberra on Friday, and said motorists had been issued warnings if they were caught speeding in the two-week grace period.
Mr Barr took on notice a question of the cost of the communications strategy compared with estimated cost of issuing individual warnings.
"Nevertheless, the point stands that there'd been months and months of discussion, warnings, speed signs, debate on this issue. The fact that the speed has changed has been very well canvassed throughout the community for a period of, what, a third of a year now," he said.
Ms Cheyne said the speed limit change and grace period had attracted significant media attention and it was not usual practice to warn motorists caught speeding in a grace period.
"Variable messaging signs have been used in the area between May, June and July. We've also had radio ads across multiple time slots, and either side of the news in peak hour to alert motorists to this change," she said.
"We do note that the change came into place in March. We did not start enforcing until July. There was a very long lead period. We had the grace period to alert as many Canberrans as possible."
Mark Parton, the opposition spokesman on transport, on Tuesday told the Legislative Assembly the government's communication strategy had been a failure and led to an "extremely perverse outcome".
"Thousands of individuals have been penalised and I think it's pretty clear that the vast majority of those, there was certainly no intent to break the law. So irrespective of the signage, and irrespective of any information campaign, it's clear that that campaign did not work," Mr Parton said in an adjournment speech.
Mr Parton, a member for Brindabella, said the Civic cameras were making 44 times more than the next top-earning camera, which captures northbound traffic on the Monaro Highway at Hume.
The ACT government collected $11.54 million from its fixed and red-light cameras in the 11 months to May last year. Eight mobile traffic camera vans issued 26,666 fines in 2020.
Mr Parton said in a statement on Wednesday Mr Barr had simply assumed, during his radio appearance, the ACT government would warn people who had sped in the grace period.
"The Chief Minister clearly had no idea if warnings had been sent but made the assumption that a good government would send out warnings, unfortunately this is not a good government," he said.
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Access Canberra executive branch manager Josh Rynehart said last month it was the responsibility of drivers to know the conditions of the road they were driving on.
"It's disappointing to see how many people are coming through [speeding]. The speed was reduced for a road safety perspective, and it is concerning to see how many people appear to continue to drive above the speed limit," Mr Rynehart said at the time.
Mr Rynehart said the average speed going past the cameras was below 40km/h which meant the majority of drivers were doing the right thing.
The number of people speeding past the cameras has fallen from between 10 and 12 per cent of all vehicles to between 3 and 4 per cent.
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