Byron Council’s paid paid parking survey biased: chamber

Concerns that Council’s parking management surveys are flawed have been confirmed by a statistician, say the Brunswick Heads Chamber of Commerce.

Problems with the survey ‘are so substantial that the results are likely to be invalid’, claims chamber president Zac Tooth.

‘Considering that $15,000 is being spent on consultation on the introduction of paid parking in Brunswick Heads, the quality of the phone and online surveys is very disappointing. People have complained about the telephone surveyor offering an opinion on the benefits of paid parking before asking questions. They have also complained about the insistence that questions be answered about how any money raised should be spent, even when they said they had already said they don’t want paid parking,’ says Tooth.

‘The phone and online surveys, which were designed by both an external company and Council staff are, either deliberately or inadvertently, written in a way that elicits a positively leaning response to questions,’ says Tooth. ‘In order to clarify our concerns, we sought some expert advice.’

Acting general manager Mark Arnold defended market research company Micromex, which is ‘a company that specialises in doing professional market research and their staff are trained and skilled at dealing with the public.’

He told The Echo that he believes a reasonable question to ask is: would people ‘be supportive of pay parking if the money raised were reserved for projects in Brunswick Heads.’

Yet Tooth says the report by qualified statistician Benjamin R Dexter ‘has confirmed evidence of biased wording, poor question construction and insertion of leading opinions between questions in the online survey.’

‘We don’t think this survey is valid,’ Tooth says.

According to the statistician’s report, the online survey doesn‘t get off to a good start by falsely advising that Council’s independent Parking Strategy recommends paid parking when it doesn’t. The statistician also notes that terms such as ‘town centre’ aren’t defined.

‘Another serious concern is statements suggesting that paid parking improves turnover and parking availability for locals being inserted into the survey,’ says Tooth.

‘This leads to bias. Sadly, from many locals’ viewpoint, the online survey looks far more like a marketing exercise than a true consultation.

Progress association rejects mayor’s plea

Paid parking was a hot topic at the monthly Brunswick Heads Progress Association (BHPA) meeting held last Monday, October 9, says  association secretary,  Leigh Rees. 

‘Mayor Simon Richardson attended and urged Brunswick Heads residents to consider paid parking in Brunswick Heads as a revenue raising alternative.

‘Residents overwhelmingly voiced opposition and expressed fears that paid parking would damage the village atmosphere. Most agreed that human nature is such that visitors would opt for parking outside homes to avoid paying a fee in the CBD area.

‘This would impinge upon residential parking and visitors to their homes. They worried that Council would then extend paid parking to include residential areas in Bruns.

‘Council was urged to open up more parking spaces in Bruns and to conduct a thorough impact study before thrusting paid parking on the town. One commissioned independent study, the Traffic and Parking Systems Group (TPS), has already concluded that compliant-timed parking would resolve any current parking problems.

‘Paid parking was revealed as a revenue raising program in essence, but residents queried the amount of revenue that would be raised from such a tiny CBD area. They also rejected the idea of paid parking along the beachfront.

‘They also questioned the expenditure of projected revenue on the foreshore parks, which are the responsibility of the Crown Holiday Park Trust. These are meant to be maintained with the income the Trust receives from the caravan parks.

‘The mayor’s constant comparison with Byron Bay was met with outrage, as most do not see Bruns as a tourist destination, but a family holiday setting.

‘Unlike Byron Bay, residents live next to the CBD area. Byron Bay is an internationally promoted destination that attracts a huge backpacker base. This does not happen in Bruns. The majority of registration plates clocked in Brunswick Heads were of locals, not tourists. Brunswick Heads is not internationally recognised like Byron Bay.

‘While the Brunswick Heads Progress Association understands that its infrastructure needs are pressing, it opposed the unattractive prospect of parking meters in such a small town. In this case, the Brunswick Heads Chamber of Commerce and the residents are aligned in their fight to preserve the town’s distinct nature and the Simple Pleasures image.

‘The Brunswick Heads Progress Association urges residents to make a submission to Council expressing their opposition before the October 20 deadline.’

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