PARKING fees in central Warrnambool streets have risen by 10 cents and charges are still among the lowest in regional Victoria, but city council candidate Brian Kelson claims it’s a cruel blow for traders.
He has called on the city council to show mercy in tough economic times and leave meter rates at $1 an hour until trading improves.
“I’m not opposed to parking fees, but the council just can’t keep whacking people with higher charges,” he said.
“It’s driving people away.”
The Liebig Street jeweller also had a crack at the $2 rise in parking fines, which are now at $60.
By comparison, the fine in Shepparton is $70 and $62 in Geelong.
Mayor Jacinta Ermacora defended the increases, which kicked in on July 1.
“Fees are designed to keep the turnover of cars happening in parking bays and revenue goes to our future car park fund,” she said.
“Customers are the lifeblood of retailers and there is high demand for main street bays.
“If people want longer term at cheaper rates they only have to walk a few metres more to off-street areas.”
She denied that council was insensitive to traders.
“What’s happening in Warrnambool’s retail sector reflects the national scene,” Cr Ermacora said.
“We’ve got a strong business support program.”
She said the council was “exploring” more options to support the business sector, including pushing for better bus routes for workers to link the CBD with residential zones.
Cr Ermacora said there were also a long-term master plan for a huge off-street car park in the railway yard and moves to install other off-street parks.
Mr Kelson predicted the exodus of CBD traders had not ended yet and said shoppers were continuing to choose Gateway and Centro plazas with free parking.
“This week, for example, the large Parkers park was almost empty,” he said.
“I suggest leaving the meter fees at $1 an hour and bringing in a 10 to 15-minute free period so people can come in for quick drop-offs or pick-ups.”
He said previous suggestions of a multi-level car park would not be viable.
By comparison, Bendigo has just opened a $15 million multi-level complex financed by the city council.
It provides the first 90 minutes free and thereafter $1.40 an hour or $7 a day.
On-street meter rates are $1.30 an hour.
A Greater Bendigo City Council spokesman said part of the cost was offset by a long-term lease by a state government department for the ground level.