Parking meters turned off in Newcastle

EVERY parking meter in Newcastle will be turned off by Monday, and they could be out of action for up to three weeks.

Newcastle City Council’s management sent a confidential memo to councillors yesterday advising them that a Christmas two-hour free trial would instead become a city-wide free-for-all.

Lord mayor Jeff McCloy has  lodged a rescission motion to stop the trial, which is scheduled to run  until Australia Day and was forecast to cost the city $700,000 in lost meter revenue and fines. It could now cost much more.

In the confidential memo, council staff advised that it would take three weeks to reprogram and sticker all meters.

As a result, and because of uncertainty about whether the trial would apply to all meters or only those in two-hour zones, machines will be turned off from this morning.

Meters in Honeysuckle, The Foreshore, Newcastle East and Blackbutt Reserve will be shut down in the early hours of Monday morning.

This means parking will also be free in four, eight and 10-hour parking zones.

Cr McCloy, who voted against the trial in the chamber on Tuesday, admitted his ‘‘inexperience’’ was partly to blame for allowing the motion to be debated at short notice and before the full impact was known.

‘‘I never thought I’d move a rescission motion in my life, but I think it was the wrong decision,’’ Cr McCloy said.

‘‘I don’t think we all understood the way it could be interpreted and the full ramifications of it,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s because of my inexperience that it happened and I accept that.’’

One of the problems the council faces is that the motion, proposed as a matter of urgency last Tuesday by councillors Lisa Tierney (Liberal) and Michael Osborne (Greens), for a two-hour city-wide trial did not clearly state whether it applied only to designated two-hour parking zones.

An extraordinary meeting has been called for this coming Tuesday to clarify the intent of the motion.

In a statement released late yesterday, the council said it was ‘‘acting on the assumption that the trial applies to all time restrictions up to and including the first two hours as indicated on parking signs or parking ticket meters’’.

‘‘Compliance officers will be attending to enforcement of safety related offences such as footpath parking, no stopping zones and double parking.’’

Cr Tierney said yesterday she hoped the motion, designed to support inner-city retailers during the Christmas period, would be backed again by the council.

‘‘But if it’s off the table I’ll have to discuss a compromise with councillors,’’ Cr Tierney said.

Cr McCloy’s rescission motion is scheduled to be debated on December 19, but the council will have the chance to resolve the issue when it meets on Tuesday.

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