Tweed Shire Council will spend $30,000 on a pilot program before it considers introducing a paid parking scheme around the shire as a new means of raising revenue.
Councillors last night voted 4-3 to allocate the funds in this year’s budget for the trial involving paid parking at the Fingal Head boat ramp car park and Pottsville’s Ambrose Park, with a rate of $2 an hour for cars and $5 for cars with trailers.
The only existing paid parking in the Tweed is the second level of Murwillumbah’s multi-level car park. Ticket parking (pay and display) has already been introduced in Byron and Lismore shires.
Councillors from both sides of the argument said the plan would spark a community backlash.
The scheme, if eventually introduced would raise around $65,000 a year for the shire’s car park infrastructure maintenance.
A resident permit parking scheme to exclude locals and target tourists, similar to one run in Byron shire costing $25 a year, will be considered.
An initial feasibility study by staff identified over 1,000 parking spaces in high-usage areas that could be part of the scheme, confirming its income potential.
A staged implementation of the scheme is planned, with 17 other car park areas also in line for pay-and-display parking, including Kennedy Drive boat ramp (24 spaces), Tumbulgum river foreshore (65 spaces), Point Danger (38 spaces), Duranbah Beach (104 spaces), Cabarita Beach-Norries Headland (125 spaces) Kingscliff surf club (130 spaces) and Hastings Point (60 spaces).
Council’s engineering director Patrick Knight said in his report that council’s ability to maintain and improve public car parking areas and related facilities such as toilets, play equipment, boat ramps and streetscaping were limited by constraints such as rate pegging and ‘increasing competing interests for budget allocations’.
Cr Warren Polglase, who with Cr Michael Armstrong moved the staff recommendation to kick off the scheme, said he was sure the ‘public will give us a whipping over this’ but councillors had to show leadership when considering the budget process.
Cr Polglase urged a unanimous support for the scheme which would ‘benefit the community but at a cost’.
He said when council tried to introduce wheelie bins years ago there was a huge public backlash ‘but now some residents can’t do without their three bins’.
Cr Armstrong said he was concerned residents paid for maintenance of car parks but did not use them, and the pilot should be backed ‘regardless of how popular’ councillors would be as a result.
Cr Katie Milne said locals she’d talked to were ‘horrified’ as they felt paid parking was not in keeping with the ‘character’ of the Tweed which had yet to grow to the scale of city areas.
She said budget problems had arisen mainly because of council ‘subsidising developers in large subdivisions and she could not accept a ‘further cost on the community while we subsidise developers’.
Cr Milne said even the pilot Fingal Head boat ramp trial would not be accepted by locals who had always fought to keep their village ‘in a more natural state’.
She said people were ‘waging war’ on parking meter sites around the world and higher security costs ‘could be nightmare’.
Mr Knight agreed, saying vandalism was generally very high with parking meters. The pay and display coupon machines planned to be used were ‘more robust’, but were still vandalised.
Cr Gary Bagnall said people in the Tweed were not in favour of the plan because they wanted to ‘differentiate themselves form the Gold Coast and Byron Bay’. The Tweed was more ‘laid back’ and made up of small communities and villages.
Cr Bagnall said there were risks involved as people would use unpatrolled beaches to avoid parking fees and ‘lives could be lost’.
In his report, Mr Knight said many of the most popular beachfront parking areas coincided with patrolled surf beaches, and paid parking there ‘may be a disincentive to use them in favour of unpatrolled ones without parking restrictions or charges with obvious safety implications’.
‘Greater use of unpatrolled beaches will also likely have impacts on dunal areas as people seek to park informally and utilise bush tracks to the detriment of the vegetation.
‘Again, this leads to greater demand for signage, bollards, enforcement and other measures to discourage informal access to beach and foreshore areas,’ Mr Knight said.
Cr Bagnall said some of the villages were trying to attract tourists, but paid parking would deter them.
Cr Carolyn Byrne said money raised would be used for to ‘fix potholes’ and ‘beautification’ of those parking lots, but Cr Milne argued the community ‘may not want the money spent on improving boat ramps’.
‘Why not ask them what they want first?’ she asked.
Cr Armstrong said it was better to ‘put the question out there generally without a case for or against’ to give the community information on whether the scheme would benefit them or not.
Mayor Barry Longland and Crs Milne and Bagnall were opposed to the scheme.