Tiny Aussie town erupts as new speed camera hands out $280,000 in fines

A local MP says people are worried about losing their jobs, but state transport officials aren't budging.

Locals living in a tiny outback town are seeing red, saying the town has been sent "bankrupt" by a single speed camera that issued a whopping 589 fines over two weeks. The subsequent uproar has dragged in local politicians but state government officials have hit back, standing firmly behind the barrage of penalties.

Earlier this week it emerged that residents of Malanda, about 75 kilometres southwest of Cairns in Queensland, were considering individual legal challenges to contest the fines which one local MP estimated to cost the town of just 2000 people in excess of $280,000.

Malanda in regional Queensland.
Residents in Malanda say they've been unfairly issued almost 600 speeding fines from a single speed camera. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Residents of the 811 households in the town said some had copped as many as five fines in a month, with one elderly man — who drives to an aged care home to visit his wife — claiming to have been caught five times.

Another said she clocked a total of $7,000 worth of fines, with "hundreds" more taking to social media to vent their own frustrations. Some complained the camera would send them bankrupt by Christmas.

MP insists camera 'malfunctioning'

Speaking to Yahoo News Australia, Member for Hill Shane Knuth said he believes the camera is "malfunctioning". Mr Knuth has called for a full inquiry to be launched into the accuracy of the device and "the validity of its placement".

The portable camera has been positioned as drivers head down the hill on a bend, on a road where the speed limit is 60km/h.

Going into bat for the apparent offenders, Mr Knuth has demanded that: all paid fines are reimbursed, all demerit points recredited, and any unpaid infringement notices be immediately withdrawn.

Local MP Shane Knuth and the Malanda speed camera in question.
Local MP Shane Knuth said he believes the speed camera to be faulty. Source: Facebook/News Corp.

A spokesperson for Mr Knuth added the MP "believes it is immoral to issue multiple fines from a device stationed for two weeks at a location just outside a small township", where there have been "no serious instances of speed-related crashes over the past five years".

"Shane firmly believes the device was malfunctioning, however at the very least there should be a procedure put in place by the department that once a motorist is allegedly clocked at exceeding the speed limit from one of these devices, they should be notified immediately via text or email," the spokesperson told Yahoo. "This would immediately change behaviour."

"People are receiving multiple fines up to a month later" totalling thousands of dollars, with little time to appeal or seek legal advice "which is causing severe mental health issues", the spokesperson added.

"We have multiple instances from this device where, for example, a trainee ambo has received nine fines totalling $7,000 and a health worker who has received seven fines totalling $3,200, who is now on medication because of fear of losing her licence and job," he said.

The town is up in arms over the slew of fines. Source: 7News
The town is up in arms over the slew of fines. Source: 7News

Government hits back, stands by fines

Responding to complaints, a spokesperson for Transport and Main Roads (TMR) Queensland stood by the camera's efficacy, claiming 94 per cent of drivers who had passed the sign did so without being fined.

According to TMR, there were 342 offences issued at more than 20 kilometres an hour over the speed limit, while eight offences were at more than 40km/h over the limit. The highest speed being an astonishing 124 km/h above the limit.

"The accuracy of speed cameras is paramount in ensuring that infringements are trustworthy and that they maximise deterrence from speeding," a TMR spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia.

They said the TMR and the service provider undertake tests to check the accuracy of the cameras, and defended complaints over the time taken to issue the fines, saying each infringement is "manually reviewed for accuracy".

"Currently, the law requires camera detected offences to be issued to the registered operator of the vehicle by post," the spokesperson said.

"However, this does not change motorists’ responsibility to drive within the speed limit at all times. Motorists should expect that if they are speeding anywhere on the road network they could receive an infringement."

Do you have a story tip? Email: newsroomau@yahoonews.com.

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube.