Former councillor calls for a ratepayer funded parking model and the removal of meters

A former Warrnambool City councillor wants ratepayers to foot a levy which would make parking free for everyone.

Warrnambool resident Les Hawkins was on the council for two terms in the eighties and contacted The Standard with the idea this week. 

He believes an annual levy as part of residents’ council rates would generate a similar revenue as what the parking meters currently do.

This would negate parking costs in the city and he hoped, if it was adopted, it would lead to the removal of meters and paid parking.

In 2016/2017, Warrnambool City Council collected parking fees of $1.178 million and there were 16,738 rateable properties. Using these figures the proposed parking levy would translate to about $70 per rateable property per year.

“Let’s see if we can get free parking for the CBD and all of Warrnambool so no-one has to pay parking meter costs,” Mr Hawkins said.  

Mr Hawkins, 80, said traders he had spoken to were struggling during the city centre renewal and free parking would help to encourage shoppers back into the CBD.

He said one of the traders he’d spoken to and a number of residents he’d floated the idea with “are in favour of paying”.

“I’m hoping it will create discussion,” Mr Hawkins said. “I honestly believe it’s worth it. It should, in my estimation be good for tourists and good for the central business district. 

He said now would be the perfect time for councillors to consider the proposal as they would currently be estimating the council budget for the upcoming financial year.

”We have to support our business people. It’s sink or swim in my opinion and I’d hope to think we can swim.”

Mr Hawkins encouraged residents to write letters and start a petition to show their support for the idea.

“I’m too old to be doing this but I want someone to take up the cause. I’d like to see someone take it up.”

Mayor Robert Anderson said in a statement council was constantly seeking ways to improve and expand on parking facilities in the city centre.

He did not answer whether council would consider the idea of a ratepayer funded parking levy now or in the future.

Mr Anderson said there were about 4000 parking spaces in the city centre and more than 1000 of those were free.

“While parking fees are used to maintain the city’s existing car parks, footpaths and to enforce parking time limits, importantly, paid time-limited parking also encourages vehicle turnover, which is crucial for a vibrant shopping district,” Cr Anderson said. 

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