A local council has vowed to continue its battle to keep restrictive beachside, local-only parking rules, which one councillor estimates could cost rate payers nearly $50,000 in legal fees.
On Wednesday, the move was lashed by NSW Premier Chris Minns who vowed to prevent the longstanding rule from continuing, stating outrightly that: “Sydney beaches are for everybody”.
As it stands, locals in Woollahra Municipal Council have 79 parking spots around Camp Cove – a popular beach located in the well-heeled suburb of Watson’s Bay in the city’s east – which are only able to be used for residents.
However advice received by the council’s legal counsel deemed the longheld parking regulations were likely illegal, under the rules set by Transport for NSW.
The revelation was made during an investigation into whether council could trial new parking rules which would replace the exclusive parking spots with two-hour limits that could be used by all drivers.
The consideration also coincided with demand expected to soar this summer due to the closure of two nearby beaches, Nielsen Park and Shark Beach.
However residents have revolted against the decision.
On Monday night, Woollahra Municipal councillors voted to seek further legal advice on the legalities of the resident-only parking permits.
The only councillor who didn’t support the motion to seek further council was Harriet Price, who stressed legal advice had already questioned the validity of the parking rule.
On Wednesday she said while formal cost estimates would be provided to council on September 26, she believed rate payers would not “get much spare change from $50,000”.
During Monday night’s meeting, she said her colleagues were essentially “privatising a public road” by continuing the existing system.
“As councillors we do have a responsibility to spend our ratepayer’s money wisely,” she said at Monday’s meeting.
“We have a very strong legal opinion on the table that tells us we can’t move forward and I find it extraordinary that we would be in this situation, spending further ratepayer’s money to get a result.”
However, Councillor Toni Zeltzer said she didn’t want to “take on board any concept that we’re being elitist,” and stressed the decision was about prioritising the “liveability” of the area for residents.
“I don’t want a single stone unturned in regard to how we investigate the legalities of this,” she said.
“We need to give local residents a chance to move safely around their own environment … to get to their emergency or medical services if they can.”
Greens councillor Nicola Grieve also asked lawyers to consider the legality of implementing a 15-minute parking slots for visitors, while residential permit-holders would be able to duck the rules.
“My rationale for that was if it’s an hour or two hours, I’m going to risk parking there and staying longer … but if it’s 15 minutes, I’m not going to risk it.
“If (the legal advice) does come back definitely that we have to change this (the resident-only parking spots), then we look at doing that.”
While Mayor Susan Wynne said it was an “excellent” potential solution, she said it was an option to consider once they receive the new legal advice.
“The time for that would be when we actually get the legal advice, because we’re all hoping our legal advice supports status quo,” she said.
While the council will receive its updated legal advice at the next council meeting, the Premier affirmed that “Sydney beaches are for everybody”.
“If you live near the beach, you’ve got a responsibility to declare it open for everyone,” he told reporters on Wednesday.
“Imagine if we were in a situation – this global city that attracts people to come to Sydney almost on the premise that they get access to the most beautiful beaches in world, and we say residents only.
“That is not going to happen.”
Originally published as Sydney Council’s sneaky beach parking ploy slammed by NSW Premier Chris Minns