By Casey Neill
Dandenong shoppers can park free of charge this Christmas to give CBD businesses a boost.
But some Greater Dandenong Councillors say the $247,000 move could do more harm than good.
At the Monday 11 December council meeting, Councillor Jim Memeti successfully suggested the Christmas bonus run from Monday 18 December to Friday 19 January.
Cr Maria Sampey followed up with a motion that Dandenong Market parking also be included.
Time limits will still apply to the parking spaces, and the multi-decks in Thomas and Walker streets will not be included.
Cr Memeti said there were more than 80 empty shops in the area.
“People are not coming to the CBD,” he said.
“Christmas Day and Boxing Day are pretty slow in Dandenong.
“In January, many offices will be closed for holidays.”
But Cr Matthew Kirwan said parking spots in the area were heavily used and the meters helped to ensure turnover.
“The biggest issue is the lack of car parking,” he said.
“Parking revenue can help to fund more spaces.”
On the empty stores, Cr Kirwan said there were other issues at play.
“I get complaints about right-hand turn restrictions,” he said.
“I get it put to me that it’s easier to have an office set up just off the freeway.
“To put vacancies down to just paid car parking to me makes no logical sense.”
Cr Kirwan said many government and non-profit employees would still be at work through the holidays, and said figures showed that parking revenue was only marginally lower for the period.
He said that last time a parking amnesty was trialled, in late 2006-early 2007, traders parked in front of their own shops, parkers overstayed, parking compliance officers were swamped and businesses were starved of customers.
He said the current move would cause “confusion and angst” when the free parking reverted back to paid.
“We will lose a significant amount of council revenue, without any evidence it will help traders.”
Cr O’Reilly said the move would likely benefit people who were already willing to pay rather than encouraging new shoppers to come in.
“What services are you going to cut, because that’s real money – it’s not Monopoly money,” he said.
“After the four weeks the public will say ‘why are you putting parking meters back on?’.
“The whole trial is leading the council down the path of ripping its own revenue out and having less control over where people park.”
Cr Tim Dark said he did want to get rid of the meters altogether.
On the market, Cr Sampey said it was “relatively busy prior to Christmas but after Christmas it does die down”.
“The parking does hinder people coming to Dandenong,” she said.
“It’s really a trial anyway.
“Let’s see if it encourages business or not.
“The residents pay enough rates as it is.
“This is really a way of saying ‘thanks, come and shop stress-free and Merry Christmas’.
“Buy as much as you like without getting an infringement.”