Byron Council will explore the possibility of increasing parking meter charges and introducing pay parking into Brunswick Heads, Mullumbimby and Bangalow, as a way of potentially obtaining more revenue from visitors to the Shire.
Following an extended debate at last week’s Council meeting, in which one councillor described the move as a ‘blatant cash grab’, the motion was passed after interim Mayor, Michael Lyon, used his casting vote to break a four-four deadlock.
‘We have been very fortunate over the past five years in that we’ve received a lot of funding from the State Government for infrastructure,’ Cr Lyon said.
‘A lot of that has come about because we were perceived as a marginal seat.
‘But I’m not sure that’s going to continue. We need to be able to pay our own way’.
‘As a Council, we don’t get anything out of tourism financially – we just get the bill for the infrastructure that’s needed to support it,’ he said.
‘I don’t think visitors are going to begrudge paying the similar rates for parking as they do back home.’
Under Cr Lyon’s motion, Council staff will prepare a report on how much parking meter revenue Council might expect to make in a normal financial year if charges were increased to $5 or $6 per hour.
The report will also investigate the ‘potential profit’ were parking meter schemes to be introduced into Brunswick Heads, Mullumbimby and Bangalow with hourly rates of $5 and $6 an hour.
Cr Lyon also foreshadowed the possibility local parking permits, which exempt the holder from hourly charges, could become free.
‘If we’re going to expand pay parking, I don’t want to put our community in a harsher financial situation,’ he said. ‘Ultimately it’s the tourists who need to start paying.’
Blatant cash grab
But Cr Basil Cameron (Independent) described the motion as a ‘blatant cash grab’ that went against the intended purpose of pay parking schemes.
‘What needs to happen here is an acknowledgment of the way that parking management can influence traffic, congestion and transport,’ Cr Cameron said.
‘When’s it’s done in a considered way, that considers not just the money that comes from it, but the best thing for our community long term, then parking policy can be very beneficial.’
Cr Cameron moved an amended motion that asked for Council staff to explore ‘potential for parking management to reduce traffic circulation and parking demand in town centres’.
This report would also have explored the potential for pay parking revenue to fund projects that encourage walking and cycling, and the identification of potential new parking areas on the edge of town in Mullumbimby.
But his amendment was defeated by five votes to three. In line with Council procedure, Cr Lyon’s original motion was then put. The vote was four votes in favour and four against. Cr Lyon used his casting vote as interim mayor to get the motion over the line.