Byron Shire Cr Rose Wanchap admitted defeat over her solution to Byron Bay’s carparking problems even before her motion was overwhelmingly tossed out by council yesterday.
Cr Wanchap had proposed that the Byron Bay Masterplan consultants be required to consider converting the existing Lawson Street north carpark into a multi-storey affair with a reception centre on top – at a cost to council of $8 million.
She told council the new megalith at the town’s entrance would ‘gather all cars that would normally park around town in one place before they pass the “eye of the needle”: the Lawson-Jonson street roundabout.’
By Cr Wanchap’s own calculation, with the earnings from the reception centre and cars turning over multiple times a day, the carpark would take a decade to pay for itself.
In an effort to shore up her project against claims from other councillors that she was ‘putting the cart before the horse’ in wanting to build the carpark before the results of the masterplan consultations had come in, she argued that plan would ‘just go into the filing cabinet’ unless the money it earned was available to ‘pay for the nice pretty things’ the planners recommended.
What she failed to explain to her fellow councillors was how it would be anything but a drain on council resources for the ten years she had estimated it would take to pay off.
In a desperate attempt to address these issues her conservative ally Cr Di Woods asked her permission to amend the motion to consider a Public Private Partnership (PPP), whereby council would not have to find the money for the project, and that the location of the possible multi-storey carpark not be limited to the one Cr Wanchap had proposed.
But her pleas fell on deaf ears.
Mayor Simon Richardson appeared to sum up the general mood when he said, ‘the community has told us clearly they do not want one of the major buildings as they drive into town to be a carpark. We don’t want to make it easier for cars to get into town and then give them prime real estate to park in. The experts tell us it’s financially unsustainable and we should get cars out of town.
‘Every masterplan forum I attended unanimously said our priority would be to get cars out of the town, perhaps starting at Butler Street and then going further out towards Kendall Street.
‘Most people we consulted are quite open to exploring Butler Street. Doesn’t have the visual impact, has more area and achieves the idea of getting the cars out.
‘For us right now to be going against all of that and still be pushing for more parking in the CBD is just not being prepared to listen,’ Cr Richardson said.
His views were supported by Cr Paul Spooner who said that it was ‘putting the cart before the horse.’
We need to work on the [masterplan] processes we’ve agreed to and have faith in that,’ he said.
‘Ultimately we as councillors need to be genuine with the decisions we make – this is going against what we’ve already decided. If we get another proposal for a car park in another location [in the masterplan] we’ve shot ourselves in the foot.’
Apart from Cr Woods not one of her pro-development allies spoke on the subject or voted to support her.
The amended motion was defeated with only councillors Wanchap and Woods supporting it.