Free car parking in Warrnambool has been extended again, but just by a few days so the issue can be debated at the July council meeting in a sign that more relief could be on the way.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, councillors made CBD parking free until June 30, but on Monday night they agreed to extend it until July 10.
With councillors signalling they might consider extending fee parking under a different model at the July 6 meeting, it came with a warning that workers who were abusing the free car parking were putting any changes at risk.
Cr Peter Sycopoulis said that provision had been made in the proposed upcoming draft budget to provide some ongoing relief.
He said the issue would come up at next month's meeting where hopefully a reworked form of free car parking could continue to support businesses combat the loss of trade due to COVID 19.
"Councillors are becoming increasingly aware that free parking in our city appears to be overutilised by many business owners and staff who could go some way to jeopardising the benefits to all that we currently have at the moment," Cr Sycopoulis said.
"It is worth noting that these privileges that we've got now when they were abused in the past it was the business operators themselves who instigated the parking meters in order to encourage the turnover of spaces for the benefit of traders."
Cr Sycopoulis said the current free car parking had been successful and well received.
Parking in the city generates between $120,000 and $170,000 per month which is used to fund future city centre upgrades.
Cr Mike Neoh said the feedback from centre management at Target and Coles was that workers were parking there all day.
He said it would be a tough decision for council to balance turnover and free parking, questioning whether the "magic formula" was 30, 45 or 90-minute free parking.
Cr Neoh said he'd seen a lot of signed business vehicles parking outside their businesses and warned them they needed to make sure they were not taking up parks at the expense of customers.
Mayor Tony Herbert said the original purpose of the free parking was to allow business owners and staff easy access to shops, but the CBD had got much busier over the past month and it was naturally now time to park elsewhere to allow shoppers in.
"I look forward to the ongoing debate," he said.
The issue of staff taking up free parks at the expense of customers was also raised during public question time by business owner Angie Paspaliaris.
"The current state of free parking is damaging to already vulnerable businesses, especially those who rely on customers and clients walking into their premises to make a sale," she said.
Ms Paspaliaris asked why the council did not proactively deploy local laws officers to enforce the current timed free parking.
Infrastructure director Scott Cavanagh said the current problem with staff taking up parks highlighted one of the issues with free car parking.
Mr Cavanagh said free parking relied heavily on a strong enforcement program such as chalking tyres which he described as "problematic at best".
He said officers had been patrolling the CBD over previous weeks and those activities would continue.
"We are reluctant to commence a heavy enforcement program in the current environment but we will issue infringements or warnings for blatant breaches of the time restrictions," he said.
Our COVID-19 news articles relating to public health and safety are free for anyone to access. However, we depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.