Byron Shire Council has forged ahead with its plan to implement paid on-street parking in Byron Bay in an effort to balance the books with the help of the town’s tourist population.
Last week’s council meeting approved the final scheme, which will set a $4 per hour rate for parking on the street and in council-owned car parks.
The existing residents’ $25 per year parking coupon will be increased to $100 per year.
The pay parking area covers over 1,500 car spaces within the town centre and the coupon can be used for all off- and on-street locations within the area.
Mayor Simon Richardson said scheme will both increase turnover of cars in the area and improve council’s bottom line, as is required by the state government’s Fit for the Future program.
‘Firstly we can expect to see an improved usage of car parking spaces in the town centre which will make it easier for us to find a park,’ he said.
‘Plus, there are substantial financial gains with a potential $2 million each year that can be used to pay for the impacts of tourism and to provide better amenities for us,’ he added.
‘Pay parking is now the norm in areas that have high visitations and for Byron Bay these are funds that our community needs.
‘From March 2015 tourism statistics, we know our area has over 900,000 day trippers each year with a total of 1.5 million visitors.
‘Whilst the solid tourism figures are good for our local economy, we also have significant impacts on our infrastructure from visitors and unfortunately council cannot introduce a bed tax, or an e-tag toll.’
The mayor said that charging for parking was one of the only ways for council to generate funds for improved infrastructure.
‘Improved parking turnover will also save council investing limited funds into building more car parks,’ mayor Richardson said.
‘Whilst pay parking will not be popular with some,’ he admitted, ‘the decision has been about finding a balance to support our roads, drainage and parks.
‘Residents will review their parking habit and weigh up whether they are prepared to pay $100 a year – $2 a week– for the parking permit, or pay as they go on-street. It will come down to a personal decision,’ Cr Richardson said.
He added that if councils couldn’t demonstrate how they will become financially sustainable, then they run the very real risk of being amalgamated.
‘The pay parking scheme is a key cornerstone to help show how we are working towards improved finances and improved infrastructure,’ he said.
It is estimated that the pay parking setup costs in the first year will be about $1.5 million. The major cost is associated with $1.2 million for the machines and data/network infrastructure. An additional $300,000 has been allowed for changes to parking signage, line marking, modifications to kerbs and blisters and additional paving or upgrades.
Councillors Ibrahim and Wanchap voted against the decision.