'Visitors should pay': Byron Bay's controversial idea to charge tourists

It's been revealed the hugely popular Byron Bay region could soon become more expensive to visit, just days ahead of the NSW regional travel ban being lifted.

Byron Shire Mayor Michael Lyon has announced a controversial plan to introduce paid parking to more tourist towns in the shire where it was previously free.

Paid parking already exists in the Byron Bay CBD, in parts of Wategos beach and in council parking areas.

Mr Lyon said paid parking in Brunswick Heads and Mullumbimby will ease existing congestion there.

Left: A photo of Byron Shire Mayor Michael Lyon, and (right) a paid parking sign at Clarkes Beach. Source: Facebook
Byron Shire Mayor Michael Lyon has announced plans to expand paid parking across the region while making it free for locals. Source: Facebook

Price hike talks as tourists return

It comes ahead of the highly anticipated move to restart travel to the regions from Greater Sydney, which is slated to begin on Monday.

As the Byron Shire braces for an influx of tourists freshly-freed from lockdown, Mr Lyon said his plan would ensure the region’s two million annual visitors pay their “fair share”, while allowing locals to park for free.

“All indications are that the number of visitors will grow substantially over the coming years and increasingly they are coming to towns like Mullumbimby,” he said.

“Expanding pay parking in other towns in the Shire like Brunswick Heads and Mullumbimby will be essential to ensure that our visitors pay their fair share towards our infrastructure costs in the coming years.”

Existing paid parking is $4 an hour and is capped at $20 for the day.

The new proposal also includes removing the existing $55 charge for a parking permit for Shire residents, and offering potential discounts for regional day-trippers from neighbouring areas like Tweed, Ballina and Lismore.

“We raised rates at the start of this current Council term which has seen great results in terms of investment in neglected roads, but we cannot expect our community to contribute more than they are already,” he said.

Aerial view of Byron Bay city, NSW, Australia. Source: Getty Images
Drivers currrently only have to pay for parking in the Byron Bay central business district, at council-operated car parks and in parts of Waregos. Source: Getty Images

Paid parking top of election agenda

The parking change is Mr Lyon’s first policy proposal on behalf of the Byron Independents team ahead of the Council elections in December.

And it appears to have gone down well with voters.

“Free parking for locals....I like that idea. I haven't set foot in Byron since it was brought in. I pay rates and I wasn't going to pay to park too or pay $55 for the privilege,” one man responded on Facebook.

Missing notice at a parking machine near The Pass along Cape Byron State Conservation Area where the search continues for missing backpacker Theo Hayez at Byron Bay on the far north New South Wales coast, Friday, June 21, 2019. The 18-year old Belgian national was last seen on May 31. Source: AAP
The paid parking propsoal is Mr Lyon’s first policy announcement ahead of the Council elections in December. Source: AAP

“It's a win win this one, I think. Easing frustration between local residents and council as well as parking rangers. I've seen quite some dramas with parking issues through the years in Byron town between locals I personally know and parking rangers,” another said.

Another woman said: “Yay! This is great! Visitors should pay. Locals shouldn’t need to pay for parking!”

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