Wise words from a local ex-firey

Hi all, after the tsunami of community backlash the Sunshine Coast Council has agreed to review parking management practices and are holding a workshop on the issue early in the New Year and with Christmas just around the corner (meaning lots of kids playing around our homes and streets) I thought it might be worth teasing out some of the issues before the workshop happens.

For my part, I am sunny coast resident and home owner, a father and grandfather and spent over 15 years in the Fire Brigade, eight years as Captain. These are the foundations of my thoughts on the matter. I also chaired a local District Emergency Management Committee tasked with evaluating emergency vehicle access needs (not here on the Sunny Coast).

It seems to me the main arguments for and against Council actions in this area; being to penalise anyone they see parked on the so-called “Council strip” or verge, or even with just a single wheel or bumper overlapping, run like this:

Council: “There is a risk to children of cars parked on the verge because a child might run out from behind a car and not be seen by drivers on the road” and “Council are obliged to enforce State Government law in this area and penalise vehicle owners who are parked on or partially on the verge”.

The Community: “It is morally improper for an organisation to expect residents to exert funds and effort to maintain a piece of land owned by the organisation yet to then refuse said residents reasonable vehicle access to the land” and “It is improper for Council to enforce regulations that by Councils own development approval standards are not achievable” (insufficient room to properly park on the roadside or within a private driveway etc).

It’s worth noting these are majority opinions and by no means cover all areas of concern. But they are a starting point.

Taking these a point at a time (I have an additional point that I will leave for the end).

1. The risk requiring mitigation of a child being struck by a car is this – a child may be hidden by a parked car meaning the driver of a moving car has insufficient reaction time to avoid the child. These are tragic and horrific circumstances so let’s think through the reality. Driving down a typical coast road we often travel a metre or less away from cars parked on the side of the road. Conversely we are usually two, three or more metres away from a car parked on the verge. It is clear that in most cases we have a greater reaction time for a child appearing behind a car parked on the verge than we do a car parked on the side of the road, for the simple reason we are further away from the car parked on the verge and have more time to react. Council’s assessment of risk in this area clearly requires some clarification and I expect our emergency services and other emergency workers will offer opinion on this point.

2. Local Government exists to promote the interests of the locality for which it is formed. If State Government laws are at odds with local conditions and circumstances it is incumbent on Council to lobby for change. The obligations on Council to enforce State legislation are no greater than Councils obligation to support and lobby for local needs and requirements. Council works for us, not for the State. This point can seem lost in deliberations.

3. Community concerns are legitimised when we consider that any study of morals and ethics teaches the base requirement of equity. There is no equity in Council expecting residents to maintain Council land yet then refusing vehicular access to said land and worse, applying a penalty for non-compliance. It fails the ethics test. We must give something back if we expect someone to freely maintain our property. There are also questions as to where monies being raised by these penalties are spent. More consultation would be beneficial.

4. Roads are primarily constructed for the purpose of vehicle movement. If a requirement exists for parking on both sides of a road due to housing approvals then any development approval should factor this need into road construction. In my view it is improper for Council to approve a road that is not fit for purpose. In this area community concerns also seem legitimised.

The additional point I wish to raise is this:

When tragedy strikes and you need a response from fire, police or ambulance our roads must be capable of allowing access. I would argue this is the most important factor to consider. We cannot expect a 17 ton Fire Appliance to navigate a 4.5 metre wide suburban street with two 1.8 metre wide cars parked on each side of the road. I have been in this scenario numerous times and the mathematics simply doesn’t work. In these scenarios residents must be allowed to park on the verge when need dictates. The alternative is to accept that then when our homes are on fire or our family members are injured, that help will not be able to get to us. Council is quite remiss in not factoring this consideration.

Apologies for the length of this post and my thanks if you have read this far. I certainly accept there are many views on this topic and many legitimate reasons why residents may not want cars parked on the verge. I think the sensible approach is to exercise due diligence and make allowances as and when required. Perhaps a suitable scenario would be to allow parking on the verge on any street less than 6 metres wide. Another might be to allow parking on the verge for resident’s and trade workers vehicles only. It does seem wrong for a Council that allegedly promotes business enterprise to target tradies vehicles parked on a workplace the way they have been doing.

Happy Christmas all.

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