Technology use, business impact concerns in Nelson Bay CBD smart parking plan

UPGRADED: The existing Nelson Bay foreshore metres will be upgraded to include smart parking functionality.
UPGRADED: The existing Nelson Bay foreshore metres will be upgraded to include smart parking functionality.

A decision by Port Stephens Council to adopt smart parking in and around the Nelson Bay CBD has been roundly applauded, but questions about the use of the new technology and its impact on businesses are being raised.

Councillors voted last Tuesday night in favour of installing smart parking meters in the Nelson Bay town centre and introducing free parking for residents, ratepayers, business owners and their employees.

A council report says the scheme would reduce cash parking meters by introducing app support, number plate recognition and sensors.

This will allow motorists to find a car park easier and pay online via an app if they choose.

Funds collected will be reinvested into Nelson Bay to fund improvements to public domain, landscaping, increased car parking and place activation.

The Tomaree Residents and Ratepayers Association (TRRA) said while they had in-principle support for the concept, they would have liked to see a business plan.

Media officer Geoff Washington said that the $600,000 scheme would have to be cost effective and privacy matters addressed.

"We would like to see more detail before the council rushes headlong into the program. For instance, how will the camera recognition technology work? What is the potential impact on the Nelson Bay commercial and retail businesses when nearby Salamander Bay has free parking?"

Tomaree Business Chamber's Peter Clough described the technology as a major step forward, generating income for the town centre to allow new projects to progress and provide Nelson Bay with a technical edge.

A parking pay station in Nelson Bay.

A parking pay station in Nelson Bay.

East ward councillor John Nell said the wider community would need to be sold on the idea.

"Not everyone is familiar with the technology and most people my age don't have an app. We need to bring the general public up to speed."

A council spokesperson said that motorists would use metres directly to secure their parking without the need to interact with an app.

"Motorists will have access to a full range of payment methods similar to the current system. The vehicle registration details will still be required to be entered into the metre as parking sessions will be linked to the vehicle registration details. The free parking permit scheme will operate on both app and metre interfaces."

During the council meeting Cr Giacomo Arnott, a supporter of the concept, moved an amendment to allow the public the opportunity to comment on the details, and requested that the proposal go out for public tender.

"Unfortunately these changes were not adopted. I encourage the community to ask questions and provide feedback to their ward councillors," he said.

The council spokesperson said that existing council meters along the Nelson Bay foreshore would require a minor internal upgrade to align with the smart parking scheme.

"There has been significant consultation undertaken in Nelson Bay and also specifically around parking ... targeted towards the Nelson Bay business community and residents, and focused on providing information about council's plans for town centre projects."

The spokesperson said that privacy was a critical issue, "however we are comfortable that the combination of system design and contractual arrangements will be adequate to demonstrate compliance with all prevailing legislation and regulations. The combination of smart parking elements chosen for Nelson Bay are all proprietary products with broad installation across many NSW local government areas and locations."

As for the tender process, the spokesperson said that council had chosen to exercise a power under the Local Government Act to directly appoint the incumbent supplier to deliver the extension of the existing Smart Parking infrastructure.

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