Parking licence fee slug hits a nerve

THE Perth property and retail sectors are outraged this week over last Friday’s announcement that the State Government would increase parking bay licence fees by 70 per cent from July 1.

Minister Responsible for Public Transport Michelle Roberts announced last week the annual parking licence fee per car bay would jump from $70 to $120 and from $35 to $60 for motorcycles.

The Perth parking licence fee system applies to non-residential parking within the areas of West Perth, the CBD, East Perth and Northbridge.

The move has raised the ire of property owners, who say they will be forced to increase parking fees to cover the increased costs, and city retailers, who say increased parking fees will put them at further disadvantage to suburban shopping centres.

Property Council of WA policy and communications officer Geoff Cooper labelled the fee increase a blatant revenue grab by the new Government.

“When the licence fees were introduced in 1999 we were given a commitment by the then State Government that they would not be raised,” Mr Cooper said.

“It had been hinted to us that an increase might happen but we did not expect it to be this bad, we think it is simply outrageous.”

In early March, after hearing whispers of an increase in parking licence fees, the Property Council, the Retail Trades Association and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry wrote to the minister seeking assurances to the contrary.

In the letter, Property Council executive director Joe Lenzo said an increase would further hurt an already weak CBD retail sector and would push possible city tenants from the CBD and into nearby suburbs such as Leederville and Subiaco.

“Perth retailers are already experiencing the slowdown in consumer spending and will suffer further against their suburban competitors if parking fees rise,” Mr Lenzo wrote.

“Any significant move by tenants to near-CBD locations will further erode the appeal of public transport, potentially create planning tensions between conflicting land uses, and reduce efficiencies resulting from co-location of businesses.”

But the warnings fell on deaf ears.

Mr Cooper said the increase in licence fees would result in increased parking fees for commuters and shoppers.

WA Retailers Association chief executive officer Martin Dempsey said, despite claims from Mrs Roberts that the increase equated to only 20 cents per weekday, the increase would still hurt city retailers.

“When people go to suburban shopping centres they don’t pay a sausage for parking, so however small this increase is, it is still extra that people have to pay,” Mr Dempsey said.

“And I would certainly question why the minister has chosen to do it at a time when retailing in the CBD is in a bit of a lull.”

In making the announcement Mrs Roberts stated the revenue generated by the licence fee increases would fund the expansion of the highly successful Central Area Transit (CAT) bus system.

“The increase in fees will provide a total of $5.5 million each year which, under the legislation, must be used to fund central city access projects such as the CAT bus system or improvements to pedestrian or cycling facilities around the city,” Mrs Roberts said.

The CAT fleet will be expanded by a further six buses, bringing the total number to 26.

City of Perth Lord Mayor Dr Peter Nattrass did not share Mrs Roberts’ view and said it was completely unreasonable to ask private property owners to fund the expansion of the CAT fleet.

“This is the responsibility of the State and local governments … and the State Government is taking none of the funding burden … they are just putting an impost on property owners,” Dr Nattrass said.

“And it is inevitable that the increased costs will be passed to the public who use the car parking bays, and this can only be negative for the city.”

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