Coast residents rack up $41M in state penalty debts
COAST residents have racked up debts that could go a long way towards improving the region if they were all squared up.
More than $41million is owed to the State Penalties Enforcement Registry by Sunshine Coast residents, with Currimundi holding the highest debt.
Its residents owe more than $7million, with high totals also originating from Nambour, Buderim, Sippy Downs and Maroochydore.
Unpaid court fines, police and toll fines as well as offender levies contribute to the amount owed to the registry.
To put the fines into perspective, they take the edge off the bills for the $347million Sunshine Coast Airport expansion or the $350million CoastConnect project to improve bus services between Caloundra and Maroochydore. Or they are the equivalent of 127 Queensland magistrates' annual salaries.
Senior associate Nathan Turner of Maroochydore law firm Boe Williams Anderson said a major benefit of the SPER system was it gave judicial officers an extra option other than parole or community service when sentencing people in court.
"If someone can't afford a fine at the outset, then it still remains a viable sentencing option," Mr Turner said.
The rate being paid back from the state-wide $1.069billion has increased by 10 per cent since July, says Treasurer Curtis Pitt.
Rates of repayment are set as low as $30 a fortnight, depending on personal circumstances.
Mr Pitt said a whole-of-government approach was being considered to reign in the overall rising SPER debt.
"A key focus of the plan is to install a new, contemporary debt management system to enable case management capability and advanced customer analytics, business intelligence and workflow management," Mr Pitt said.
"SPER is working with issuing authorities to encourage finalisation of fines before they are referred to SPER."
Mr Pitt said that included working with toll road operators to negotiate a different approach to tolling enforcement that explored options other than automatic referral to SPER.
"SPER will also be undertaking a broader community awareness campaign, encouraging people to pay their fine on time, before the matter escalates and enforcement commences," he said. "This campaign aims to reach debtors through a range of channels and building general community awareness about the role of SPER."
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Breakdown by area
Currimundi4379 debtors owing $7,042,000
Nambour and surrounds2636 debtors owing $4,560,000
Tanawha/Sippy Downs/Buderim2784 debtors owing $3,681,000
Maroochydore/Kuluin2022 debtors owing $3,641,000
Buddina/Wurtulla2082 debtors owing $3,092,000
Mooloolaba/Mountain Ck1904 debtors owing $2,871,000
Coolum1744 debtors owing $2,381,000
Tewantin/Cooroibah1186 debtors owing $2,074,000
Beerwah/Peachester753 debtors owing $1,328,000
Noosa Heads/Sunshine Beach1161 debtors owing $1,243,000