A proposed new tax targeting tourists who clog the streets of an increasingly popular Aussie beach town has sparked a fierce discussion among locals.
Noosa Heads has seen thousands of beachgoers take to its main streets every year, causing lengthy traffic jams while searching for a place to park their car. In an attempt to solve the problem, councillor Brian Stockwell has suggested implementing a congestion charge — never-before-seen in Australia — for visitors.
“Day trippers sightseeing in tourist precincts clog our roads but contribute nothing to the solutions,” he recently told the Courier Mail.
Stockwell said the council had tried to shift the behaviour of drivers by providing free buses on the weekends and school holidays, but more needed to be done. He claimed a survey of residents in 2022 showed nearly half supported a congestion charge in the town — which doesn’t have any paid parking.
“With vehicle recognition technology we can provide exemptions for local residents. The income generated, in my opinion, would be enough to remove the $30 transport levy from the rate notice,” the councillor told the Courier Mail, adding that while “paid parking is another option”, he doesn’t believe it would “have as much impact on congestion as a charge that comes into effect during peak hours”.
The Noosa Council is currently trialling new car park technology that displays the real-time availability of parking spaces before drivers enter the busy Main Beach precinct.
Congestion tax 'not a new idea'
A congestion charge to battle heavy crowds of tourists is “not a new idea”, with several towns in the UK and Europe adopting the method, Professor Matthew Burke with Griffith University's Cities Research Institute told ABC radio.
“It was causing too much congestion and impacts on others as those streets just got to gridlock, so not too dissimilar to the Hastings Street environment on say Easter weekend where things just get crazy,” he said of Noosa’s main street.
When asked how the tax would work, Professor Burke said a toll booth could be installed at which driver’s would have to stop and pay, or tourists could pay via a tag on their car.
“You would set up two points probably, is all you’d need to do for the Noosa Heads precinct. And so yeah, it’s not illogical,” he said, adding he believes it would “free up that strip and discourage people from heading and causing congestion to everyone else”.
Locals debate over proposed tax
The proposal has sparked a discussion among locals — who have long been vocal about the behaviour of visitors.
While a few people said they could see the benefits of the proposed tax, others slammed the “nonsense” idea and questioned what the money would be used for.
“If they set up a tram service from a spot out of town that people can utilise and the tax goes towards paying for it, fair enough! Other than that it’s a typical council grab for money,” one man said.
“Pedestrians are also part of the traffic congestion. Pedestrians who cross at the roundabout closest to Hastings Street seem to think they have right of way over traffic,” another local argued.
A woman named Denise told ABC Radio “it’s a no-brainer that Noosa needs more car parks”. “People just drive round and around and round looking for a car park,” she said.
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