Parking levy fury

PERTH lord mayor Basil Zempilas is fuming after being blindsided by a state government plan to spend parking tax funds outside the city. 

The Perth Parking Policy started out as a joint venture between the state government and Perth city council in 1999 to limit car bays in the city and cut down on congestion. 

The policy restricted parking bays in new buildings and brought in a levy for every commercial parking bay in and around the CBD. 

The money collected has always been restricted to public transport projects within the taxed area, like CAT buses and bike lanes.

WA Labor’s transport minister Rita Saffioti announced this week the McGowan government would change the rules to allow the money to be spent on “a range of projects and initiatives that deliver positive economic and social outcomes for the community”.

Ms Saffioti’s media statement flung a barb at the council by suggesting one project that could use some parking money: “It will also allow us to deal with situations where significant cultural assets like the Perth Concert Hall, which has been under the management of the City of Perth, have been allowed to be run down and forced 

the closure of some sections of the car park, despite the city collecting millions of dollars in revenue from the car park itself.”

Ms Saffioti said the government planned to expand the area where the levy could be applied. Currently it just affects commercial bays in Perth and an adjoining slice of Vincent, where each bay costs the owner $1300 in tax per year.

Many of those bays are operated by Perth council.

Successive lord mayors have often criticised the levy over hefty annual price increases and the slow pace with which the money’s spent.

Lord mayor Basil Zempilas said Perth council currently pays about $20m of the roughly $60m the state collects per year in parking levies, and the accumulated fund is up to $190m.

“The announcement from the state government today can only really be interpreted as holding the city in contempt,” Mr Zempilas said at a press conference Tuesday February 14.

“It shows a lack of respect for the Perth property owners whose money from the parking levy has been accumulating, now at $190m a year, and suddenly with the wave of a magic wand the Perth Parking Fund money can now be spent on any project anywhere with no consultation with the City of Perth, with very little transparency, and no inclusion or discussion of the sorts of projects that that money could be spent on.”

He said the council had told the state government of several projects that’d encourage people to choose alternatives to driving.

“I’ll give you one example: for around $7.5m, every dark corner in the City of Perth could be properly lit, so there are no dark or unsafe corners of our city anymore. 

“How many times have we heard people say it would be great if some for the darker corners of our city had more light?”

Expert: Get spending

COURTNEY BABB, senior lecturer in urban and regional planning at Curtin University, has closely studied the Perth Parking Policy. 

Dr Babb is a fan of the policy and says it has contributed to capping congestion in the city over the years, but says there’s a broad view the levy money should be spent more regularly.

“It could provide a great resource for improving facilities in the city for cycling, pedestrians, and public transport,” he said.

Dr Babb is wary of Ms Saffioti’s plan to spend the cash on projects “that deliver positive economic and social outcomes for the community”.

“That’s pretty vague,” he said. 

Dr Babb says the strength of the current legislation is the clear connection between collecting levy money to deter cars, and then spending it “providing those alternatives for travelling around the city or getting to the city; bike lockers, bike parking, bike lanes, and things like this.

“At the moment we have a council who is pro-parking I suppose, in terms of offering free night time parking and things like that. So if for example we’re looking at [funding] events, maybe a festival or something like that, and at the same time there’s a promotion of free parking in the city, it weakens that link” between collecting money to deter cars and spending it on alternative transport.


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