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Tent Embassy Set Up In Protest Against Weinam Creek Parking Plan

Residents from Southern Moreton Bay Islands took to the streets to vent their anger about the introduction of parking meters and losing reserved parking spots at Weinam Creek ferry terminal, setting up a "tent embassy" outside council chambers in Cleveland on Wednesday. About 100 residents from Lamb, Macleay, Karragarra and Russell islands gathered on the footpath outside the council to voice their opposition to paid parking and a $1.5million interim upgrade plan for the terminal precinct. The protest started minutes after a Redland City Council committee moved, in principle, to delegate powers of authority to the city's CEO to grant permission for peaceful protests under the Peaceful Assembly Act 1992. The full council will vote on delegating powers at its May general meeting, when the parking protesters will also table a petition with more than 2000 signatures. Lamb Island's Ken Goodwin opened proceedings with a tune on his bugle before Ellen Ulrick officially opened the tent embassy and local politicians and protesters addressed the crowd. Federal Member for Bowman Andrew Laming, Redlands MP Peter Dowling, Cleveland MP Mark Robinson and councillor Karen Williams (Div 9) gave speeches decrying the council's parking plans at Weinam Creek. Protesters, including island resident Robert Hopgood, called for the council to amend the Redland Bay Foreshore Master Plan to include more free parking spaces and appoint engineers to investigate proposals for the precinct from island lobby group Our Parking Spot. Spokesman for Our Parking Spot Lindsay Hackett said council plans to remove all allocated parking spaces, discourage long-term parking and charge fees at the terminal would seriously affect island residents. Mr Hackett said the council's $1.5million interim plan would reduce the number of free car spaces at the terminal from about 600 to fewer than 300 and the paid parking spots would rise from 500 to almost 900. "The council plan represents a discriminatory act that will destroy the livelihoods and lifestyles of many islanders, as it could cost them up to $2000 a year to park," Mr Hackett said. "The council has developed this plan with no social or economic impact study, no community input, no consultation and no warning. "Council does not charge for parking at any other transport interchange or commuter terminal car park or park-and-ride anywhere else in Redland. "We are here because we are worried about our ability to park at Weinam Creek and we are angry because we have tried hard for more than two years to get council to listen to our pleas to get the master plan changed." He also lamented a council document which showed income from parking meters would "make the foreshore area more attractive to private investment". Lamb Island's Jetti Berkhout told the crowd she would not be able to get a parking spot after a late-night shift as a nurse at Redland Hospital if the council removed reserved parking spots for islanders. She also said she was concerned residents would have to travel to the mainland every day to move their cars left in car parking spots at the terminal. Currently, only paying permit holders have access to the fenced-off car park. Mayor Melva Hobson, who did not attend the protest, issued a statement saying interim upgrades at Weinam Creek would improve safety and security for all users. "The interim measure will give council time to fully explore options for a longer-term public-private project on the site, which has the potential to deliver far greater benefits at lower community cost," Cr Hobson said. "New fees have not yet been set. They will be influenced by the outcomes of a social and economic impact assessment and the SMBI Integrated Local Transport Plan, due to be finalised in June. "The method of payment has also not yet been decided. However, the council is committed to selecting an option that is customer friendly and flexible. "A number of payment and permit options will be available to allow users to park from one hour and less up to a number of weeks if required," the mayor's statement said. Cr Hobson said the council had met organisers of the protest to ensure public safety while the "tent embassy" was outside council. Our Parking Spot's Gayle Nemeth said council had granted the protesters the right to hold a peaceful assembly outside chambers until June 4.

Posted on 06 May 2011

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