NSW COVID fine data reveals hotspots in Mount Druitt, Liverpool, Dubbo
There were 50,000 COVID-related penalty notices issued in NSW to October 10, 2022.(ABC News: Bindi Bryce)
New data reveals the areas in New South Wales hardest hit by COVID-related fines include those in western Sydney and regional NSW, with tens of millions of dollars in penalties issued during the pandemic.
The figures, obtained by the ABC, detail COVID-19 penalty notices issued to people between July 2020 and October 2021 and was released in response to a Freedom of Information request.
During that time the government sought nearly $45 million from people breaching the rules across the state, equating to almost 50,000 individual penalty notices.
That figure has since ballooned to more than $55 million since the start of the pandemic.
The worst offenders to October were in the western Sydney suburb of Mount Druitt, where more than $1.3 million worth of fines were issued.
Next highest was Liverpool with more than $1.1 million.
In the city’s east, Bondi had more than $400,000 in fines issued.
Penalties range from $500 for failing to wear or carry a mask to $5,000 for failing to self-isolate if directed, lying to contact tracers, or misusing evidence of being vaccinated when not.
COVID-related penalty notices worth $600,000 were issued in Dubbo, where just 50,000 people live.(ABC Western Plains: Jake Lapham)
Outside Sydney, Dubbo in the state’s west — with a population of just over 50,000 people — had a total of $700,000 in fines.
Revenue NSW sent out more than $6 million in penalty notices for the entire region of Newcastle, the Hunter and Central Coast.
To the south and in Wollongong, $360,000 in fines were issued — the same amount issued for Wagga Wagga.
Tamworth was not far behind with more than $300,000 in fines issued there.
The amount in Coffs Harbour was $212,000 and in Moree $219,000.
Hardship as revenue raked in
Late last year a coalition of legal and civil society organisations called for a pause on fines and said 99 per cent of unpaid COVID fines had been escalated to enforcement.
That action could prompt the suspension of drivers’ licences, cancellation of vehicle registration, seizure of property, deduction of wages, or court summons if the fines were not paid.
Kim Richardson says homeless people have been hit hard by COVID fines.(Supplied: Kim Richardson)
Hunter Community Legal Centre senior solicitor Kim Richardson said of the more than 50,000 public health order fines issued about 20,000 were unpaid.
She said the domino effects of being fined could leave vulnerable people stranded.
“That is where people who have been unable to pay these fines will be impacted, with revenue [or] New South Wales imposing restrictions on the licence or car registration, which will have flow-on effects,” she said.
Ms Richardson said the homeless had been hit particularly hard.
“They were often heavily policed as a result of that being visible — out sleeping rough — or which made them a target for policing and the issuance of fines.”