Welcome to Byron Bay! The once hippy- but now hipster-infested coastal town marketed here and internationally as the embodiment of a place that embodies the ethos of personal freedom. And yes, it is free, sort of. Well it used to be. We still have freedom, but well, this is embarrassing. You can have our Byron freedom, if you can afford it.
If you want to experience this amazing freedom it will cost you $3 an hour. But then you’ll have to move your car so other people can come and experience the same $3 hourly freedom. From 23 December residents and visitors to the Byron Shire now have to pay for the privilege of parking in a town that is already overpriced, under-serviced and over-utilised. Poor beloved Byron looks like she needs a good wipe down with a Chux cloth.
The goddess turned hooker needs some nurture… fill her potholes, tend to her parks, build a toilet that doesn’t feel like you’re pissing in a giant Tardis-shaped bedpan. Stop milking Byron’s diminishing resources for more cash.
Paid parking is a joke. It doesn’t actually create ‘more’ parking. It just creates a new level of compliance and over-regulation. Which doesn’t make the experience of going to Byron very enjoyable. In fact, it makes me anxious and angry. Somehow I don’t think that aligns with the Byron freedom vibe. In the end it just creates another reason NOT to go to Byron Bay.
A few days after Christmas I decided to take the kids to the movies. I was prepared for the worst: apocalyptic traffic scenes necessitating the need to top up Rescue Remedy stores in the glove box and a mindfulness CD on repeat. I had done my breathing. I had let go of expectations. I was ready.
What I encountered was unexpected. It was like a ghost town. $3 hour parking spots littered the streets. I had a choice of around 30 spots right across from the cinema. The retailers I spoke to were in shock. Where were the people? These should have been their busiest days. Could paid parking really send everyone packing?
In a tantric town should we really expect people to achieve their business in just one hour? And here was my conundrum. How do you watch a movie with one-hour parking? Of course I could park in the Woolies carpark – that probably houses the allocated ‘free cinema parking’ but there wasn’t any because every other bastard who wasn’t going to the cinema had parked there. So I was forced to take an hourly spot and leave on the hour to move the car. I had to leave the cinema twice.
In the course of a single screening, Star Wars turned into Car Wars. Of course as a local I have the option to go online and pay my $50 annual fee. With three cars in our household that’s $150. That seems like a hefty price to pay to see two films a year, and go to the fish shop. As a local most of my stops in Byron are less than 10 minutes and involve picking up one of the kids or something I have bought. The other day I paid $3 to find out the fish shop was shut.
As a local resident I’ve already got the shits. When it comes to infrastructure, the Byron Shire has a bloody raw deal. The jewel in the crown of Aussie tourism, you’d think as local residents we’d be enjoying the booty – amazing roads, incredible walkways and bikeways, a beachfront water park… but no, we ain’t got shit.
As ratepayers you start to wonder what the fuck you are actually paying for and why you seem to be continually paying for more and more of this over-supply of absolutely crappy NOTHING. I don’t want to pay $150 to park somewhere I think as a local resident you should be able to park free. Resident parking should be free. We live here.
We are not on holidays. We are not sleeping in our Wicked Vans. We are not spending three hours having lunch and cruising the shops. We are going to work. We are buying bread. We are going to the doctor. We are getting our chakras aligned. So now I do what everyone else does. I park at The Farm, and I hitch in.