Sydney news: COVID fines for July and August dwarf the total for all of 2020

Here’s what you need to know this morning.

COVID cases in northern NSW

Two new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in residents of the Northern NSW Local Health District.

One case has been confirmed in the Kyogle area, while a second case has been confirmed in the Byron Bay area.

Initial investigations indicate that both people had been infectious in the community, with contact tracing and investigations currently underway.

The Tweed and Byron local government areas came out of a seven-day snap lockdown overnight after a TV crew member working in the area tested positive.

Legal centre calls out unfair COVID fines

Sydney’s Redfern Legal Centre says it’s overwhelmed with requests for help from people who insist they have been wrongly issued with fines by police for allegedly breaching COVID health orders.

The latest statistics from Revenue NSW reveal that in July and August more than 28,000 COVID fines were issued.

That’s about 13 times the number of fines issued during the whole of last year.

The legal centre recently sent an open letter to the NSW government — signed by 100 prominent members of the legal, academic and political profession — calling for all wrongly issued fines to be revoked.

The centre’s senior lawyer Samantha Lee said there had been no response and called for the issue to be addressed, saying thousands of innocent people with no means of paying their fines were in distress.

“Our centre has been struggling to keep up with demand to assist people who have been issued with COVID fines and what we are finding is that the majority of people have been issued with a fine unlawfully and what that means is that the police have got it wrong.”

Bluesfest returns

The director of Byron Bay’s Bluesfest says the event will definitely go ahead next Easter and he wants unvaccinated people to be able to attend, if there’s a way to do it safely.

The festival has twice been cancelled due to COVID-19, including a day before it was due to kick off earlier this year.

Bluesfest director Peter Noble said the government’s plan for emerging from lockdown was like a Christmas gift come early for the music industry, which had been decimated by the coronavirus.

He said entry conditions may differ for those unvaccinated but details needed to be worked out with health authorities.

Suspicious fire investigated

Police are appealing for public assistance following a suspicious fire at a cafe in Glebe in Sydney’s inner west overnight.

Emergency services were called to Badde Manors cafe on Glebe Point Road, just after 12:30am. 

The fire caused minor damage and no-one was injured. 

Police said they wanted to speak to four males spotted wearing tracksuits and hoodies, who they believed may have been able to assist with their investigations.

New emissions reduction target for NSW

The NSW government has committed to an ambitious new emissions reduction target, pledging to halve greenhouse gas pollution by 2030.

The 50 per cent target is a steep increase on the government’s previous 35 per cent goal to reduce emissions below 2005 levels by 2030.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said it was all part of the state’s plan to get to net zero by 2050.

The commitment came at a time when there was growing division within the federal coalition over setting a target of net zero emissions by 2050.

Truckies plead for toll relief

The peak body for truck drivers in the state, Road Freight NSW (RFNSW), has told an Upper House inquiry there needs to be urgent toll relief for truckies.

RFNSW chief executive Simon O’Hara said truck drivers had worked tirelessly to keep shelves stocked during the pandemic but were being hampered by high truck tolls across the state.

“It’s time now for the NSW government to look at rego or toll relief for hardworking truckies who help save our community through COVID with food, medicine, vaccinations, PPE and ensuring our water is drinkable,” Mr O’Hara said.

“We have seen light vehicle users and ‘grey nomads’ receive tolling relief in one form or another, from the NSW government around rego and other things. Why not for hardworking truckies?”

Mr O’Hara said solutions like a “per km” distance-based tolling system, daily cap on tolls for transport operators and off-peak tolling discounts could also deliver less congestion for the whole community.

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