Sorry, no free park for Warrnambool Christmas shoppers

HOPES of a Christmas gift of free parking for shoppers in Warrnambool’s CBD were dashed when the suggestion was rejected after a vigorous city council debate.

However, there is some hope for a compromise next year with calls for a major rethink in the metering system to allow for electronic payment, a yearly pass and sharing of tickets across several parks. 

Councillors were told that if the suggested seven-week free parking trial in the Ozone Square, Parkers and Cramond and Dickson car parks went ahead it would entail loss of revenue of up to $105,000.

READ MORE: Warrnambool motorists support parking idea

The suggestion by Cr Brian Kelson got off to a shaky start when he announced he had been advised to declare a conflict of interest and leave the room because he was a Liebig Street trader.

In his place Cr Peter Sycopoulis read the motion and supporting argument after chief executive Bruce Anson gave the OK in response to a query by Cr Jacinta Ermacora on the rules surrounding a stand-in mover and conflict of interest.

“I think it’s legit, but I wouldn’t swear on the Bible,” Mr Anson said.

Mr Anson also said the council’s budget would need to be adjusted to compensate for the lost revenue and there would be difficulties in enforcing parking time limits without tickets displayed.

“From January 28 we’ll have a new bus service when a weekly ticket will be cheaper than an all-day car park.” - Cr JACINTA ERMACORA

Cr Sycopoulis said the free-parking motion was designed to bring life back into the CBD  after traders had experienced what could be regarded as the most challenging times in the city’s history. 

“If this Christmas trading period is not successful we could be looking at more business closures,” he said.

“Our neighbouring shopping destinations have a distinct advantage in free parking. We should do it as a trial and research the results.”

Cr Peter Hulin supported the argument, saying many of the parking bays had been initially paid for by business operators.

“How do we pay for the trial? Well, possibly from savings from the Fun4Kids Festival and a consideration that businesses are already paying for a garbage collection service they don’t get,”  Cr Hulin said.

Cr Kylie Gaston suggested an annual parking permit priced the same as a parking fine, ticket machines that accept cards and tickets that were transferable between parks. 

“I don’t agree with this motion because it only came up last week and the costing is not in our budget,” she said.

“I’ve very happy to look at it early next year in our budget discussions. 

“A trader near the Coles/Younger car park told me he doesn’t want free parking because the bays were already full and a Fairy Street trader said the motion was very Liebig-centric.”

Cr Ermacora also said the suggestion needed to be factored into budget discussions. 

“From January 28 we’ll have a new bus service when a weekly ticket will be cheaper than an all-day car park.”

Mayor Michael Neoh also supported the concept of year-round parking passes and suggested installing boom gates and making the first hour of parking free.

The vote was lost 2-3.

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