A speaker representing the business community urged councillors to “vote with compassion” as the COVID-19 downturn continues to affect them.
A speaker representing the business community urged councillors to “vote with compassion” as the COVID-19 downturn continues to affect them.

PAID PARKING: Business owners rally against council plans

BYRON mayor Simon Richardson will table a rescission motion after councillors voted to defer consideration of paid parking in Brunswick Heads.

A report considering the potential inclusion of parking meters in the town went before the council's ordinary meeting on Thursday.

Cr Richardson was absent from the meeting, as was Cr Jeannette Martin.

"I'll be tabling a rescission … at the next meeting," Cr Richardson said.

The council's staff had recommended councillors note their report but defer consideration of the matter until the October meeting because of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Councillor Paul Spooner asked his colleagues to push this out to June 30 next year.

During public access, Michelle Begg spoke for the Brunswick Heads No Paid Parking committee and was representing the business chamber.

She said business turnover in the town was down and 105 jobs had been lost.

"How could you be considering any form of paid parking … in the middle of a pandemic?" she asked councillors.

She argued some of the calculations about parking occupancy in the town were "inflated".

She said TPS consultants had told them - a year ago - the town "would not need paid parking for five years".

Many businesses are expecting it will take them at least a year to recover from the financial impacts of COVID-19, she said.

"We'd like it taken off the table for five years," she said.

"Even if tourism picks up we are surrounded by uncertainty.

"Please vote with compassion."

Matthew O'Reilly, who will run for council on the Greens ticket at the 2021 election, spoke in favour of the staff recommendation.

He raised concerns about large congregations of illegal campers in parts of the town but mostly commended the council for the report.

Cr Spooner said the potential ongoing impacts of the pandemic must be "taken very seriously".

"We are not through this pandemic yet," he said.

"Now is not the time to be introducing changes to the parking regime in Brunswick Heads.

"The loss of income has been massive in this community due to the reduction of tourism, the cancellation of festivals.

"We shouldn't be adding to any pain."

Cr Michael Lyon said even if the trends set out in the report were "50 per cent out", there was still a "massive increase" expected in tourism within the shire.

"We really need to be bracing for that," he said.

Cr Cate Coorey sought to bring the report back before the council in October.

She said the proposed parking scheme was "not a tax on locals" but "a way of recouping costs for the impacts of tourism".

Cr Alan Hunter said they would make things "simply unpleasant" for the town, known as a place of "simple pleasures", if they rushed the changes.

Deputy mayor Sarah Ndiaye said postponing their decision until mid next year would "turn it into a circus".

After Cr Coorey's amendment was lost, all present councillors voted to defer their decision until after June 30, 2021.