Council divided over return to paid parking
COUNCILLORS were divided over the end of free parking in Airlie Beach during today's council meeting as concerns were raised that the school holidays had created a false sense of security for operators.
Division 1 councillor Jan Clifford tabled a motion to return to paid parking at Coral Sea Marina and Port of Airlie from Monday, July 13.
However, Cr Clifford maintained free parking should remain at the lagoon until September 30.
Councillors supported the move to keep parking at the lagoon free, however the two marina carparks sparked debate with three councillors saying it came too soon.
Cr Clifford argued the Coral Sea Marina and Port of Airlie carparks were "chockers full" and therefore a return to paid parking was fair.
"Town is still suffering, I know it was pumping over the weekend and I think it's important we leave the free parking in the Airlie central area," she said.
"However, Coral Sea Marina and Port of Airlie are almost operating at full chat again and I think it's sort of been a bit used and abused.
"I don't think there's going to be great pushback if we pull (free parking) back."
Division 2 councillor Al Grundy raised concerns that council was jumping the gun by returning to paid parking.
Cr Grundy said the carparks had been full over the past few weeks due to increased visitors over the school holidays.
With students returning to school next week, Cr Grundy supported a suggestion from Division 5 councillor Gary Simpson to revisit parking numbers in the coming weeks.
"I'd err on the side of caution until we understand what's going to happen next week," Cr Grundy said.
"There is some feedback coming now for the tourism operators that the booking activity is slowing and that there (are) some drops coming.
"I don't know that we'll be pumping as much as we've seen."
Division 3 councillor John Collins also supported holding off a decision until after the school holiday period when the town may see a drop in numbers.
"School holidays finish next week and I don't think we'll have many people floating around still," he said.
"(If) we knock it back down and everything dies on us in two weeks' time, we're going to be the worst people in the world again."
However, the motion was passed four votes to three with Cr Wright, Cr Grundy and Cr Collins in opposition of the paid parking return.
Speaking after the meeting, Cr Clifford said the decision could be reversed if visitor numbers dropped significantly and carparks emptied.
"We have lost a lot of revenue, but that's fine. I'm not worried about that particularly, but (free parking) has to end some time," she said.
"I'm more concerned at the moment with the people, the traders, in Airlie Beach who are struggling.
"I don't believe that the bareboats will fall off and I don't believe the day trips will fall off, and if they do then we'll have another look at it."
Cr Clifford ruled out extending free parking at the lagoon beyond September 30, although floated the idea of an incentive program where rebates on parking could be claimed in shops and restaurants.
"It will all be looked at, and we might have cheap Tuesdays with our machines and things, but this will all be looked at and decided by council," she said.