City News

Credit clash over free parking – but is it enough?

Shop owners question if 15 minutes is enough. Photo: Paul Gregoire

Viewers of the ABC’s interview series with Paul Keating have been treated to a taste of the ongoing tension over who was responsible for the big and important economic reforms of the 1980s.

The City of Sydney’s 15-minute free parking trial might not be quite as consequential, but it’s sparking a similar war of words over who can take credit.

The free parking initiative was brought before council by independent Lord Mayor Clover Moore, with the aim of giving small businesses a boost.

But Liberal councillor Edward Mandla said that he initially proposed the idea during his election campaign in 2012 and accused Ms Moore of stealing it.

“I came up with it as part of my campaign for Lord Mayor. Myself and Christine Forster pushed it all the way in the election campaign,” Mr Mandla said.

“I said in council: Lord Mayor, you have nicked the idea, but I don’t blame you – in your position I probably would have to.”

Fellow Liberal councillor Christine Forster said she presented the initiative to the current council at its first meeting.

“It’s a fantastic initiative the Liberal councillors campaigned for right from the start of the election campaign in 2012,” she said.

“It was something that I tabled at the first meeting of the current council.”

The free parking zones will cover nine main retail streets outside of the CBD, including Oxford St, Glebe Point Rd and King St.

Parking metres in the trial zones will be marked with signage and motorists will be required to display a ticket on their dashboards.

Living Sydney councillor Angela Vithoulkas said she also pushed for the zones, and suggested 30 minutes free parking would be a more suitable time.

“I think it’s a good start but I campaigned heavily during the election campaign for free short-term parking hoping we’d have more than 15 minutes,” she said.

“In encouraging people to support local business, it’s a very short time frame. I would have preferred 30 minutes.”

Leichhardt Council introduced half-hour free parking in and around its busy Norton and Darling streets earlier this year. Mayor Darcy Byrne also jumped in to claim some of the credit.

“I can tell the residents and business owners in the City that in Leichhardt free parking has made a real difference and provides an incentive to visit our main streets,” he said in a press release.

Stephan Györy, co-owner of The Record Store on Oxford Street, is hoping that will be the case. But he agreed with Ms Vithoulkas that the changes did not go far enough.

“We’ve got 15 minute parking out the front of the shop [but] there’s not much you can do in 15 minutes. I would think an hour free parking would be more relevant,” he said. “What they could have done would be to convert all the loading zones to loading zones with 15 minutes [free parking].”

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