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Businesses railing against parking levy's expansion

The parking levy that has caused CBD businesses so much pain could soon be extended to the suburbs, however, the Western Australian Government is playing down these suggestions. Mark Beyer investigates.

THE  Western Australian Government has played down suggestions that the Perth parking levy, which was increased in last month’s budget, could be extended to a wider geographic area.

However, Property Council of Australia WA branch executive director Joe Lenzo said he understood departmental staff were looking at proposals to extend the area covered by the levy, possibly to regional shopping centres across Perth.

“The indications are that they may go that way,” he said.

“It’s a nice little revenue earner.”

Planning and Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan said she had not considered such an increase.

“We haven’t had any detailed discussions about widening it,” Ms MacTiernan said.

“No decisions have been made in that regard.”

The levy applies to nearly all non-residential parking bays in the CBD, West Perth, East Perth and Northbridge.

It raised about $7 million last year and increases included in last month’s budget will bring in another $1 million.

The levy for tenant parking bays and long stay public parking was increased by $30 to $180 per annum while the levy for short stay public parking rose by $5 to $155 per annum.

The levy for motorcycle parking bays is $77.50.

The original rationale for the levy was to provide funding for the free CAT bus service.

Hence the levy applies to areas serviced by the CAT buses.

Proceeds from the levy can also be used to fund improvements to pedestrian or cycling facilities around the city.

Ms MacTiernan said proceeds from the budget increase would be used to help pay for the replacement of the current CAT bus fleet.

The levy has been increased by more than 150 per cent since the Gallop Government was elected in 2001, when it was $70 per parking bay.

Mr Lenzo is critical of the levy itself and the rationale put forward by the Government.

“They claim it’s part of a strategy of controlling traffic into the city,” he said.

“The reality is that it is just another revenue raising exercise.”

Mr Lenzo noted that Sydney, with much higher population density and traffic pressure, was the only other city in Australia with a parking levy.

“To use the same strong-handed demand management in Perth is ridiculous,” he said.

The Sydney levy was originally confined to the central CBD and North Sydney but has since been expanded to major regional centres such as St Leonards, Chatswood, Bondi Junction and Parramatta.

The size of the Sydney levy has also increased substantially since it was first introduced.

Ms MacTiernan said she believed the State Government had to act now before traffic management in Perth became a more serious problem.

She characterised the Government’s policy as a carrot and stick approach, with improved public transport facilities such as the free CAT service providing the carrot and the levy providing the stick.

“We do have to reduce automobile dependence in our city,” Ms MacTiernan said.

“We need to put good practices in place before our transport does become a problem.”

Ms MacTiernan noted that the differential levy now in place meant the levy paid on short-stay parking bays for shoppers was lower than the levy on all-day parking.

The Property Council believes the rise in the levy would disadvantage the CBD retail market and deter businesses from locating in the CBD.

“The proposed increase in the parking bay levy rate will inevitably hamper the growth of Western Australia’s capital city and harm the economic growth in surrounding areas,” Property Council policy manager Geoff Cooper said.

“This increase is a special tax on those who come to the city to work, shop or visit.”

Under the current policy, approximately 4,000 of the 56,500 licensed parking spaces are exempt from the levy.

There is also an exemption for small businesses with five or fewer parking spaces.

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