Jenny Bird, Bangalow.
Irrespective of my opinion about paid parking, I believe that Byron Shire Council has failed to exercise due diligence in relation to implementing paid parking in Bangalow.
The council resolved in August 2017 to spend $75,000 of our precious ratepayers money implementing the scheme with no robust evidence to justify the expenditure.
First, the parking report the council commissioned relied on only one day of parking data. That day was a Saturday with a large festival happening in the Showground. The study can in no way be considered to represent parking in Bangalow. This was pointed out to council staff at a Bangalow Guidance Group meeting early in 2017 and ignored. Even still, the study did not recommend paid parking as a first intervention.
Secondly, the council have also spent $15,000 of ratepayers money on a community consultation process which resulted in
a) a movement strategy report that raises concerns about paid parking in Bangalow, and
b) a statistically invalid survey designed by council staff, the results of which were then reported to the council as community support for paid parking linked to revenue.
These concerns were also pointed out at a subsequent Bangalow Guidance Group meeting in 2017 and, again, were ignored.
Thirdly, there is very little data on tourism in Bangalow because they are mostly day-trippers and therefore cannot be counted by ‘beds’ as happens in Byron Bay. We locals know that day trippers come to Bangalow for a leisurely shop, coffee and lunch and are therefore unlikely to park in a one-hour, or even two-hour, parking zone. If the council wants to use paid parking as a de facto tourist tax then the logic just doesn’t work with this plan.
The claims and promises made in the media by the general manager about likely revenue for Bangalow are intemperate given the lack of robust data about parking behaviour, tourist numbers and behaviour in Bangalow. Council resolved on August 24, 2017, to undertake a one-year pilot. There should be no talk or promises about revenue until revenue data from the pilot is available.
At the August council meeting, the council also resolved to enter into discussion with the Bangalow Guidance Group before the implementation date on January 1, 2018. This, quite simply, has not happened.
Good governance requires both good data and real community engagement in order for informed decisions to be made. Something has gone horribly wrong with the process of investigating the feasibility of paid parking in Bangalow. It has all the hallmarks of a fait accompli.