OPINION: Arguments for paid parking miss the point

BYRON Shire councillors trying to explain the reasoning behind their decision to introduce paid parking into Byron Bay seem to be labouring under a misconception.

Asked about the issue this week, mayor Simon Richardson and councillor Dianne Woods both pointed to the vast expense involved in bringing the town's infrastructure up to scratch and the shortage of funds available within the council to do the job.

There's nothing new in this cycle of debate. In the past it's always ended up parked at the futile concept of a bed tax, which, as Cr Woods points out, just ain't gonna happen.

Byron paid parking to fix 'third world' infrastructure

So plan B, or C, or whichever letter it is we're up to, is to use paid parking to extract a bit of dough from the squillions of visitors who drive into the town every weekend.

So far, no argument.

Where it all falls into a nasty-smelling heap is the $100 fee the council suddenly expects residents to pay for the privilege of parking in their own town.

There is a general perception that the people living at and around Byron Bay are all wealthy and it's true the town's demographic has shifted a lot over the past few years.

However, there are still plenty of ordinary working folk who bought into Byron before rising house prices started excluding people on lower or even average Northern Rivers incomes - and for those people a random $100 bill is no more of a lark than it would be for anyone else, anywhere else, in our region.

Then there are the people who work in Byron's shops and cafes, all of whom need a place to park just to be able to do their jobs.

The idea of letting them park for the day on the Butler St Reserve has some merit. However, it also means you would inevitably have women walking alone to their cars through poorly-lit areas after dark, and that's sounds very much like a recipe for trouble.

If the council thinks it can make money from tourists through paid parking, then go for it. However, it should be tourists paying for it, not the rest of us.

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