Bain calls for $130m Perth CBD spend

07/05/2020 - 13:54

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Activate Perth chair and mayoral hopeful Di Bain has penned an open letter to the state government lobbying it to spend up to $130 million raised through Perth CBD’s parking levy as stimulus for the city’s commercial tenants.

Bain calls for $130m Perth CBD spend
Di Bain announced her candidacy for City of Perth's mayorship in January. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

Activate Perth chair and mayoral hopeful Di Bain has penned an open letter to the state government, lobbying it to spend up to $130 million raised through Perth CBD’s parking levy as relief for the city’s commercial tenants.

That comes after City of Perth announced a series of stimulus packages totalling $18 million to support the city’s businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The parking levy, which is paid by all tenants with car parks of five or more bays, has accumulated more than $132 million for the state government according to Treasury projections, with just $21 million of that to be spent in the current financial year.

Revenue collected through the levy can only be spent on transport and infrastructure development in Perth's CBD.

Ms Bain, who declared her candidacy for City of Perth’s mayorship in January, wrote that the state government should suspend the levy this coming financial year, with any charges paid during the current financial year repaid in full.

“Commercial ratepayers need immediate assistance to deal with the impact of mandated restrictions in response to COVID-19,” Ms Bain said.

“The Perth Parking Levy currently funds free CAT bus services, which have been reduced.

“It’s also intended to fund CBD infastructure [sic] like cyclepaths.

“With no customers or people using parking bays, the levy is redundant.

“Providing relief for building owners reduces pressure on the tenants who pay for the levy through their leases.

“It would make available immediate cash flow to both tenants and landlords at a time when that is critical to business viability.”

Further to that, Ms Bain said the state government should consider using funds accumulated by the tax as direct stimulus for the city, estimating total reserves collected from the levy at $130 million.

“This is a pragmatic plan to stimulate the economy by supporting CBD businesses and revitalising the CBD by unlocking development, commercialisation and activation opportunities,” she said.

“We encourage the state government to take action to provide this lifeline to the CBD businesses.”

Ms Bain co-authored the letter alongside East Perth Community Group chair Anne-Maree Ferguson and West Perth Local chair Steve Wellard, with the Property Council of Australia and the Australian Hotels Association WA also listed as signatories.

Ms Bain told Business News the city and state government had so far expressed little interest in suspending the levy or spending money accumulated from it.

“I knew there was compounding money in that account that just wasn’t being spent on what the legislation said it needed to be spent on, or, certainly they weren’t spending all of it,” Ms Bain said.

“I don’t see anything from the previous councillors; the commissioners aren’t talking about it (stimulus spending) … businesses, the people who are actually writing the cheque[s] are talking about it.”

In response, Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said the government was already providing more than $1 billion in relief for households and businesses, and that the Department of Transport was considering spending funds accumulated from the parking levy.

"The state government will require funding for the recovery stage of the COVID-19 response, and these funds may form part of that," Ms Saffioti said.

While Ms Bain acknowledged that the letter came as she actively campaigned for the city’s mayorship, she said she was advocating the issue because, while broadly popular in the city’s community, the city's commissioners weren’t forcing the issue.

“The thing that bothered me was that no-one was defending the city on this issue, and it was a no brainer,” she said.

“If ever there was an opportunity to prove some relief in an unprecedented time, this was an easy thing to do.

"Just pause this levy, like they did in Sydney, for a period of time until things get back to normal and people get back on their feet."

Ms Bain made her first tilt at politics in 2017, when she unsuccessfully ran for Perth City Council.

She has served as managing director of her own marketing firm, Bain Media, since 2013, and has been a commissioner on the board of Tourism WA since May of last year.

Several prominent candidates have now announced their intention to run for lord mayor of Perth, including media personality Basil Zempilas, who earned the endorsement of incumbent Lisa Scaffidi in March.

Elections to the city's mayorship and all nine of its council positions are set to be held in October.

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