PARKING BACKFLIP: Council could remove free parking…again
THE Whitsunday Regional Council could backflip on its decision to make parking free again in Airlie Beach in a move one business owner says could mark the end of many businesses in town.
However, the decision might be reversed when councillors vote on a recommendation to remove free parking during the ordinary council meeting in Collinsville today.
The recommendation states that the council should "receive the report noting the loss in revenue for paid parking due to free parking being offered and therefore reinstate paid parking in all off-street parking areas within the Airlie Beach area forthwith".
A report prepared by council officers revealed that parking fees assist in operating and maintenance costs for the Airlie Beach Lagoon and parkland as well as the Airlie Foreshore, which totals about $2 million a year.
The 2020-21 council budget forecast $550,000 for all four off-street parking facilities, which equates to $45,833 a month.
Revenue received to date sits at $19,070, or $12,714 a month, which is a decrease of 72.26 per cent.
If parking was to remain free, the council budget could take a $397,430 hit for the 2020-21 financial year.
However, The Jungle Trader owner Ivan Pratt said Airlie Beach needed free parking to survive as a town.
Since free parking was introduced, Mr Pratt has seen a threefold increase in customers at his store.
He said free parking was the only thing keeping him from shutting his doors and removing it would be a "disgrace".
"Everyone's suffering and they want to send us backwards again," he said.
"You want your town to survive, look after it, it's simple.
"Just when everything's going good they'll kill it, they'll absolutely kill it."
The council report also stated "the number of available parking bays for tourists, visitors and the local community may be further reduced due to an increase in the number of parking bays taken up by tourism-related employees who may usually not drive to work due to the cost of parking."
However, Mr Pratt disagreed, saying business closures had meant there was a smaller workforce in town.
"There's not that many shops left in the main street, let's face it, so why would that be an issue?," he said.
Beach Book Boutique owner Belinda Harris also said workers using the carparks should not warrant the removal of free parking.
"It sort of works against us in that way but then again why aren't the workers just as important as the tourists?" she said.
"If people can park (for free) they'll get out and have a look and if they have to park and pay they don't bother as much.
"We all need every sale we can get, it's been such a shocking year."
Mrs Harris suggested a four-hour parking limit could be introduced so parking could remain free while also keeping spaces free for tourists and visitors rather than workers.
Mr Pratt also supported an alternative scheme that would allow parking to remain free, saying reinstating fees for parking could threaten many struggling businesses.
"It's either they give or we're all gone," he said.
The decision on parking will be discussed at the council in the ordinary meeting today.