The attempt by a group of Byron councillors to put paid parking in Brunswick Heads back on Council’s agenda has been thwarted by a dramatic backflip from Deputy Mayor Sarah Ndiaye.
In a move which Greens Mayor Simon Richardson described as ‘staggering,’ Cr Ndiaye moved a last-minute amendment at last week’s Council meeting to put off any consideration of paid parking until March 2022.
The motion passed by five votes to four, consigning the installation of parking meters in
the town to a dusty bottom drawer that won’t be opened until well into the next term of Council.
‘I’m deeply uncomfortable with all of this and I’m especially uncomfortable with aligning myself with the arguments that have been put forward against paid parking,’ Cr Ndiaye said, adding that those opposing paid parking had engaged in ‘hysteria’.
‘My favourite place to stop off and get a coffee [in Brunswick Heads] – I haven’t been stopping off there because I haven’t been able to get a park…’
‘[But] there have been 210 jobs lost in that town. JobKeeper will end in March. People’s pockets won’t have that extra bit of cash, and rather than put that huge stress on, I can see the benefit of just resting it on the table.
‘I don’t see the benefit outweighing the risk right now.’
Earlier Cr Richardson had spoken strongly in support of reviving the paid parking plan.
Together with his Greens colleagues (including Cr Ndiaye), and Independent councillor Cate Coorey, he moved to rescind a motion from the last full meeting in June, which would have deferred debate on paid parking until October 2021.
This would have made paid parking a highly-politicised issue in the 2021 Council elections.
Having successfully rescinded that motion, Cr Richardson then moved an alternative motion to put the issue back on the agenda, with an eye to introducing parking meters in time for this Christmas.
News of the rescission motion had caused great anger among members of the Brunswick Heads Chamber of Commerce, who said that introducing parking meters in the town this summer would push some businesses ‘over the edge’.
But the attempt to make paid parking a priority was scuttled when Cr Ndiaye suddenly switched from supporting that motion.
Cr Richardson said he was ‘flummoxed’ by his colleague’s backflip.
‘We heard [from Cr Ndiaye] that most of the arguments against paid parking were “hysteria”, and we heard that she doesn’t go there [to Brunswick Heads] because she can’t get a park…’ Cr Richardson said.
Hard to reconcile
‘It’s hard to reconcile the speech with what’s occurring … it’s staggering.’
Earlier, the meeting was treated to a reprisal of the arguments for and against paid parking that have been chewed over by Council numerous times during the course of the past four years.
One refreshing contribution came in the form of a speech against the proposal by the owner of the Happy Dolphin cafe, Garry Della.
Experienced disaster after distaster
‘This past year we’ve experienced unprecedented disaster after disaster,’ Mr Della said.
‘We’re scared and we’re very tired and we’re relying on JobKeeper to stay open.’
Cr Richardson acknowledged that the businesses of Brunswick Heads were opposed to paid parking, but said he was ‘absolutely content that the wider community want it’.
‘We all love and care for Brunswick Heads,’ Cr Richardson said.
‘We know that when traffic [to and from Queensland] is allowed down that highway again, Brunswick Heads is going to heave again.
‘We know that small coastal places will feel the pick-up quicker than everyone else, because that’s where everyone wants to go.
‘This needs to happen, and if we defer it, all we’re doing is kicking the can down the road for the next Council.’