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100% Locally Owned, Independent and Free

ParknNo: whole floors empty as drivers shun Mooloolaba's $23.5m multi-storey carpark

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Drivers have been shunning the new paid multi-storey carpark in Mooloolaba, with stark figures revealing a daily occupancy rate of just 13 per cent.

Many floors are virtually empty in the huge council-owned facility and a recent Sunshine Coast News visit revealed there were 617 unused parks out of some 700 at 1.30pm on a Wednesday.

The $23.5 million ParknGo Mooloolaba Central was built with more than eight floors and is in the heart of the tourism precinct, within walking distance of the beach.

But only about 100 cars a day have been using the controversial carpark since it opened in December 2020, data requested by Sunshine Coast News reveals.

Visitors will have no trouble finding a space in the Mooloolaba ParknGo. Picture: Patrick Woods

Sunshine Coast Council confirmed that in 18 months of operation to June 2022, just 53,800 vehicles have parked there, equating to 98 cars per day.

In the first 12 months to December 2021, when the fee was $12.50 a day, the uptake was 31,600 vehicles (about 86 cars per day).

When the price was dropped to $5 between December 2021 and June 2022, useage increased slighty to more than 22,200 cars over that six months (122 cars per day).

But the true uptake rate is likely to be even less because about 40 parks a day are understood to be utilised by local businesses as part of a deal with council.

The revealing figures have proven for the first time what many locals had already suspected — the paid carpark has not been embraced by the public.

Businesses say its unpopularity has been hurting the local economy, with fewer visitors causing a drop in customers.

Another side effect has been cars lapping the streets searching for free parking spaces and contributing to frustrating traffic conditions.

It cost $23.5 million to build, but where are the customers? Picture: Patrick Woods

Mooloolaba Chamber of Commerce president Graeme Juniper said businesses have been calling on the council to introduce a free period of up to three hours, similar to many shopping centres.

Mr Juniper said even though $5 a day was “absurdly cheap”, people clearly did not want to pay and the numbers reflected this.

He said the chamber had been asking the council to introduce a free period ever since they learnt the new carpark would be a paid facility.

“The charge is cheap compared to anywhere else, but the fact is it’s not being used,” said Mr Juniper.

“We have been advising the council that the empty carpark is having a negative impact on small businesses in Mooloolaba and we have asked for a free period to help with local visitation.

“Locals are saying they won’t come because there’s always somewhere else they can go where the carparking is free.

“The effect is, we’re losing these customers.

“There should be a free period so businesses can compete with the shopping centres, because at the end of the day we are a shopping centre overlooking the beach.

“We need that three free hours to compete on a level playing field.”

Mr Juniper said a survey of more than 2,000 locals, previously undertaken by the chamber, found that 90 per cent of people said they would not support paid parking.

He said the multimillion-dollar building could become more advantageous to Mooloolaba if the council took heed of the clear message coming from drivers.

“It’s a waste of good infrastructure that could actually be a good economic driver to Mooloolaba, but in fact it’s operating to the detriment of Mooloolaba,” he said.

Mr Juniper said encouraging free access to the carpark would get people used to the convenience and hopefully drive more traffic.

Cyclists have also not yet embraced the carpark. Picture: Patrick Woods

A spokesperson for Sunshine Coast Council said a review of best practice around the country found that $5 for an entire day in a beachside location was good value.

“In addition, Mooloolaba residents, businesses and visitors benefit from approximately 1300 additional free car parking spaces in Mooloolaba,” said the spokesperson.

“In the Mooloolaba ParknGo, motorists parking for less than an hour are charged $2.50 and once over the hour, parking is capped at $5 a day.

“This new rate was introduced in December 2021, as an outcome of the Mooloolaba Visitation Study undertaken by council, in consultation with the Mooloolaba Chamber of Commerce between August and November 2021.

“The pricing change was anticipated to be one of many actions planned to be undertaken throughout 2022, in conjunction with the Mooloolaba Chamber of Commerce.”

However the chamber told SCN it was not consulted about the new charges, but “advised”.

The car park on the corner of First Avenue and Smith Street was opened in December 2020 after much public debate about its cost and whether people would be willing to pay that much for parking.

It features 700 public parking spaces, including 13 disabled parking spaces, 2 electric vehicle charging bays, plus 54 motorcycle spaces and 50 bicycle spaces.

Council said it was a “strong supporter of local business” and was collaborating to encourage more spending.

“The new beachfront parkland is expected to lure thousands of extra visitors to the area, providing an estimated $5.5 million worth of extra expenditure in local businesses each year,” said a council spokesperson.

“The new Mayes Canal bridge will accommodate anticipated growth in traffic generated by residents, businesses and the attraction of Mooloolaba’s natural features, with daily trips expected to increase from around 61,000 today to more than 90,000 in 2041.”


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