by Aly Hayashi
North Sydney Council now has the aid of an electronic eye to enforce parking time limits.
License Plate Recognition technology, already used by the police to identify cars that are stolen or have expired registration, uses a car equipped with a camera and an onboard computer that automatically records the number plates of parked cars, their location, and the date and time they are located.
This system also allows the Council to find out how parking is utilised and how often time limits are ignored, as well as the percentage of parked vehicles that are registered outside the North Sydney municipality.
The Council says that this is a more efficient method of surveying parking, costing eight cents to survey each vehicle compared to $1.65 for rangers on foot, and allows for a greater area to be covered in the same time period.
First introduced on 20 May 2013 in select areas of Wollstonecraft and Waverton, the system now operates three to four days a week and covers all residential areas in the North Sydney municipality.
Valerie Zenari, 75, who lives near the Waverton shops, hopes that more efficient enforcement of time limits will increase turnaround, allowing more people to park in the designated areas rather than in No Standing zones.
“There are limited spaces, and cars are known to park across our driveway and we can’t get in,” she said.
Though it is over three months since the scheme began, North Sydney Council general manager Penny Holloway says that the number of parking fines issued has not substantially increased, and was non-committal regarding the effectiveness of the system in combating illegal parking.
Some residents and people working in the area are concerned about the privacy implications of such a technology.
“I think it’s probably crossing the line for the Council to be using it,” says Kyle Hagerty, 26, manager of a Waverton cafe. “Fair enough for police, but the Council’s a bit over the top. They’re not law enforcement.”
Dr Roger Clarke, Chair of the Australian Privacy Foundation, says a balance is needed between the possible invasion of privacy and the positive effects of the scheme.
“As with any form of visual surveillance, the implementation of a technology like this requires a series of principles be respected first,” he says. “It’s not an open-and-close case of ‘this is a privacy invasion and therefore don’t do it’. It’s a question of ‘now hang on a tick, why are you going to do this?’.”