Parking fines issued as virus shuts down Toowoomba CBD
ACROSS the nation there was panic-buying in the shops, whole industries shutdown by government decree, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared Australia to be facing its greatest challenge since World War II.
And in the Garden City, Toowoomba Regional Council's parking officers carried on their work, leaving behind their telltale sign: a $66 parking fine curled under a car's windscreen wiper.
On Tuesday, Kyle Zevenbergen made the difficult decision to shut his restaurant, Zev's Bistro, for the foreseeable future.
He had been in conversations with his bank, the landlord, his staff, suppliers, and other hospitality friends who were going through the same thing because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
He walked outside to find his second parking fine in a week.
"It was a kick in the guts. Absolutely. I get they have a job to do, and I respect that. I pay any fine I do get when I'm not on top things, if I am busy," he said.
"But for right now and how bad the CBD has been, even before (the closures), for them to be out raising revenue - and that's all it is - because there's no cars out there to move along, it's just pretty disheartening," Mr Zevenbergen said.
"That's $66 to pay and I don't have an income for the next six weeks."
Mr Zevenbergen said he had formally disputed the fines and asked for them to be waived.
"My theory is that someone's rostering these parking inspectors to go out," he said.
"They have the choice to not put them out on the street and get them to do some administration work or some humanitarian work right now."
Toowoomba Regional Council CEO Brian Pidgeon said current parking restrictions and parking fees would remain in place for the time being.
But he did say that parking officers "will now be given much greater discretion to issue warnings and infringements where absolutely necessary".
"We are concerned that lifting parking restrictions and waiving parking fees would result in current off-street long-term parkers migrating to prime on-street parking areas," Mr Pidgeon said.
"This would defeat the intention to facilitate easy customer access to businesses that remain open in the CBD."
Mr Pidgeon said parking officers would still need to ensure motorists did not create a hazard by parking over driveways, parking illegally, or where there was "blatant overstaying or misuse that is creating conflict between workers and customers in prime parking areas".
He said officers were continually monitoring the situation as the pandemic unfolded and would make adjustments if required.