Mandy Nolan’s Soap Box: Freedom! Just $3 an hour

byron_parking_web 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.

20 responses to “Mandy Nolan’s Soap Box: Freedom! Just $3 an hour”

  1. Len Heggarty says:

    Funny colour to paint parking meters, green.
    Is that the camouflage colour of the deep, deep, rainforest, leaf green, or the medium green of the Australian army or the light frog green of the green tree frog?
    Kermit said it is hard being green and now parking meters blend in with the lawn so you won’t notice them. They are a picture. So attractive. Aren’t they picture perfect, not like Council rubbish bins standing up so straight and tall.
    And that sticker on the side that says “P”. Just like the sticker on Granny Smith apples at the supermarket When you have a line of them is says P P P for P p p pay P p p parking. Pay here. What a fantastic idea. Drivers will come from miles around just to put their money in.

  2. Regina Markovics says:

    As a thirty year local living up in the hinterland of the Byron Shire, I rarely go to Byron, maybe a half a dozen times a year mostly for work or business but occasionally we want to celebrate something special with a nice meal and a walk on the beach. It has got to the point where there is so much stress involved that it just isn’t worth the effort, and I agree with Mandy, it is a pretty shabby looking town these days. Lismore may be the dowdy sister but she welcomes you with easy parking and the food and cultural scene is improving every time I go. But shhh- don’t tell anyone!

  3. Kim Drum says:

    Mandy let us all get together to have them abolished. This story is a good starting point.

  4. max igan says:

    well said Mandy. I agree wholeheartedly

  5. jamie says:

    i live halfway between Byron and the Coolangatta , considering the traffic on Ewingsdale road and now paid parking I will be spending more money at Coolangatta’s restaurants. i know my money won’t make an impact but I imagine more people will be doing the same. so congratulations Byron you have worked out how to keep me and other non locals away. its a shame because I thought Byron was better than Coolangatta.

  6. Steve Shearer says:

    Byron Bay is nothing more than an over-priced theme park for yuppies and hipsters and the locals nothing more than warm props/serfs for the landlords who run the joint.

    The irony is how far the marketing has slipped away from the reality and yet noone seems to notice.

  7. Sheryl Ryan says:

    I couldn’t agree more Mandy. I have lived in Byron /Suffolk Park for 28 years was born in Murwillumbah and been coming to the Bay my entire life and unfortunately i now avoid coming to town like i would the plague. Byron has some beautiful shops but so does lots of other towns and i dont pay parking there. So instead of coming into Byron to spend my hard earned dollars I’ll go elsewhere. Sorry Byron Business people but thats the way it is maybe you should ask our Green Council to reimburse you?

  8. Joe Monks says:

    Byron Council still thinks Strop and Hoges own the pub.

  9. gypsy 7 says:

    Jamie you are so correct about Coolangatta.
    I was born in Bangalow, reared in Mullumbimby, lived in Burringbar for decades and have now reached my utopia here at Coolangatta.
    Good comments Mandy.
    Still free parking here on this southern end of the Gold Coast. Sh……..
    Beautiful beaches along side of pathways and parks. New Woolworths along Marine Parade with 2 level underground car parks below. The car park has the first three hours free.
    From North Kirra to Rainbow Bay there are 5 beach’s – North Kirra, Kirra, Coolangatta, Greenmount & Rainbow Bay, all with their own Lifesavers Club House.
    Also good fast internet connections what more could the modern woman need.
    Where did you say you came from Mandy?

  10. Pete says:

    Mandy, you are so spot on and it’s good to hear someone so distinguished saying so.
    I did my apprenticeship at Norco in the late1950’s and later married a Byron Bay girl and have always lived at Brunswick Heads. The rot in Byron Bay started in the seventies when a bunch of surfies from Woolongong “discovered” the place and of course later Strop and Hoges “rediscovered” it and it’s all been downhill from there.
    Some (many) years ago one of the little local papers used to have a satirical comic done by the pen name “Jason Smythe” and it was also spot on with the many controversial subjects the comic depicted. As I write this the thought came to me, maybe it was you who was Jason Smythe, as you have similar wit. Anyway one of the comics was under the title of “A taste of Byron”. There are just three pics the first being of Byron Bay looking from Tyagarah area, and is as it used to be, preety much untouched but there are Rumble Rumble signs all over the place. The next pic has big piles of smelly turds everywhere and chuncks missing from the beaches and landscape with all these big ugly hungry heads saying “MORE MORE”. The last pic is similar but the hungry heads are heading out of town to the north and a sign saying “To Brunswick Heads” and the hungry heads are still saying “more more!. This was so spot on that I cut it out and stuck it on my living room wall where it still hangs today in it’s very yellowed state. So over here we are having the same problems with a small group of developers slowly changing the place to be ruined more and more like Byron has become. A few of us are desperately trying to fight it and it remains to be seen who will win.
    Keep up your great work Mandy as I’m a very big admirer of your wonderful wit.

  11. Doug says:

    Well Said Mandy! Unfortunately this disease has also spread to Lismore. With the new Hospital development, overpriced paid parking is to be imposed on Hospital visitors.
    The new parking station is to be run by one of the huge overpriced parking companies, so even the profits do not stay local. The Council has increased the parking charges around the precinct so people are forced to pay fees.
    I really object to this, because in Sydney, there is a public transport option. Here, on the North Coast, there is really no option except a Taxi (or Uber if you are game). Byron residents need to be careful because the new hospital will most likely have similar overpriced paid parking. Even the staff will be forced to pay this fee.
    I also hate going to Byron, even though there are sometimes good entertainment options. Being out of the shire, we cannot pay the annual parking fee (not that I would anyway)
    Is there any free parking for motorcycles or electric vehicles in Byron Bay? (Being a ‘Green’ council?)

  12. Sue says:

    Not sure why some people seem to think Byron has a green council. The majority of Byron Councillors are National Party and independants with 5 of the 9 being pro development and more interested in the big end of town than rate paying residents.

  13. Surfshack says:

    Nailed it (yet again) Mandy! Love your well-written pieces! Like most people around here I love the Bay for its natural beauty, beaches and unique vistas that combine to make it such a paradise. Unfortunately the natural wonderland is fast disppearing under an ugly veil of greed and chaos. So, like many other locals I now also avoid the Bay – and paid parking just serves to further consolidate its demise. For what price freedom? Could be quite a lot….!!! (see link below)

    • Gus says:

      Thanks for the link.. that was one of the more disturbing articles I’ve read. The comments above and below all cry ‘paradise lost!’, but if ever you’ve been to/over China, then like me you’ll know how far yet we have to go.

      Local Real Estate Agents priding themselves on their connections in that smog covered crap hole, flying in the worst offenders to build resorts in Byron?,..then they really need to bring out the big mirror and have a long hard look at themselves and what is is they’re actually trying to accomplish. Or better yet – if they want to live in a place that’s been completely over developed and over run and ruined then please save us all the short term profiteering and just take your shingle to the Gold Coast, we’ll all be so much happier.

  14. Mullum Rush says:

    Agree with you Mandy. and it’s $50 this year but bet it increases every year.. If I see you hitch hiking I’ll give you a lift.

  15. Ben says:

    Yeah if only there wasnt so many blow in families with three cars per house…. pay for your choices.

  16. Todd says:

    Refuses to pay 50 dollars to register one of three cars and put money into the community. Pays 20 dollars a head for star wars at the palace cinemas in byron owned by non locals.

    So you went into byron expecting to contribute nothing to the shire happy to spend over fifty dollars further lining the pockets of who even knows. Got stung with paying 9 dollars

    Chewbakka isnt going to fix our pot holes. Or is he.

  17. David Michie says:

    Mandy is so wrong on this. The town’s infrastructure is crumbling because 14,000 ratepayers support a million visitors per year, and those visitors contribute nothing to Council’s coffers. Paid-parking is the only way we can make those visitors to make a contribution. Ideas like a bed tax, e-tags, and boom gates on Ewingsdale Rd are fine, but the NSW state government has knocked them back several times.

    Like Todd says, Mandy was happy to pay $20 a head to see Star Wars (plus another $10 for snacks) but not $50 per year to park in town. The one hour time limits haven’t changed either, so its not like you could park on the street for three hours before paid-parking.

  18. bryan peterson says:

    Byron Bay…I won’t shop there…there’s free parking at Woolies in Mullum though!

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