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The Sun Herald - Sunday 15 January, 2006

Macquarie coins a new cash cow

By Frank Walker
Page: 32
Section: General News
PUT your dollars in the parking meter in the future and they could be going straight to Macquarie Bank under a plan being put to councils around Sydney.

The bank is in a joint venture with the makers of multi-bay parking meters to pay councils upfront to let them run their parking meters.

Saltbush Parking has approached several Sydney councils offering millions of dollars to allow them to set up meters and collect money from them for several years.

Ryde Council was recently offered up to $20 million by the joint-venture group for a 12-year deal.

A council feasibility study found meters could raise $5 million a year and the council could collect another $2 million in fines.

The study said councils in Sydney collected more than $20,000 a year in fines from each parking meter.

"I was aghast at the proposal," said Labor councillor Michael Butterworth. "They would have made an enormous profit from the deal. Councillors quickly rejected it.

"It would have been the first paid parking meters in the Ryde Council area and would only push parking into residential streets unnecessarily."

Saltbush finance director Andrew Boustred said it had put similar proposals to other councils, but the company could not collect parking fines as that could only be done legally by a council.

Local Government Association president Genia McCaffery said she would be very concerned if any council took up the proposal.

"Parking meters are there to control parking not to create private profits," Ms McCaffery said. "This proposal is only to give councils revenue while the parking group would make a profit, and Macquarie Bank is very good at making profits."

After last Sunday's Sun-Herald revelation that councils collect more from parking fines than meters, the State Government has urged councils to ease parking restrictions.

Small Business Minister David Campbell said parking meters and timed zones could hurt local businesses which were major employers for local people.

"If councils continue to spread parking meters and tight parking restrictions they will chase people away from local businesses to the big shopping malls," he said.

Pedestrian Council chairman Harold Scruby said: "Parking inspectors hover over meters about to expire and write out tickets straight away. But there is not a ranger in sight when people double park or stop in no-standing zones outside schools.

"Council inspectors take the easy option and just go back and forth checking parking meters. Whether that's because they have a quota to fill, I don't know. But it sure rakes in the money for the councils."

IT'S A MONEY MAKER

* Macquarie Bank is in a joint venture to pay councils to let them run parking meters in the suburbs.

* Multi-bay parking meters cost $3500 each.

* Five per cent of parkers end up being fined.

* On average, each meter earns $20,000 in fines per annum.

* Councils now make more money from fines than meters.

* City of Sydney collected $27.8 million in parking fines last year and $16.5 million from meters.

* Most councils doubled their revenue from parking fines last year.


© This work is copyright and is reproduced under licence from John Fairfax Holdings Limited