Letters to the editor

June 02, 2018

Time for rethink about parking

The Shepparton Soccer Precinct parking issue is getting out of control. The council response, in my view, is short-sighted, irresponsible, and probably unconscionable.

While attending my six-year-old son’s soccer match on Saturday, May 26, at the northernmost pitch at the end of Packham St, I noticed dozens of cars receiving parking infringements. I know that some were parents of multiple children, and others were volunteer coaches/administrators.

In my view, the council has complete responsibility for failing to provide sufficient car parking spaces adjacent the soccer fields during its recent multi-million-dollar redevelopment of the sports precinct.

The current parking facilities are woefully inadequate to safely accommodate the number of parents, volunteers, and family members who attend to spectate and transport children to participate.

In order to use the nearest ‘‘legal’’ park, parents with very young children (often multiple kids), volunteer coaches and team managers have to walk about 1km from Brauman St to access the northern soccer pitches. This is highly impractical, as the children are wearing studded football boots unsuitable for walking on footpaths, and the coaches are often carrying large, cumbersome bags of balls and other equipment. It creates an unsafe amount of foot traffic and raises obvious safety issues for small children.

As I understand it, a recent Heart Foundation analysis based on Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows 36 per cent of Shepparton residents are obese, and 77 per cent did not complete the 2 hours a week of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity considered necessary for good health.

So our Shepparton council provides woefully inadequate parking facilities, then embarks on a money-collecting exercise to penalise parents and volunteers who are making every effort to engage and encourage their kids to partake in healthy sporting activity.

The council representing Victoria’s most obese town penalises its community for transporting children to and from sporting events. It just doesn’t sit well.

A simple calculation conducted during the planning stage as to how many families are involved in the Shepparton Junior Soccer Association on any given Saturday morning would have elucidated the number of car parking spaces that might be required.

Most of the cars receiving infringements were parked safely and were not creating a hazard to traffic flow. Pedestrians were not placed at risk as there are no footpaths at the far end of the precinct. Rather than dish out hefty fines, the council should urgently consider staffing the parking areas and provide immediate additional parking facilities in the fields around the area.

It would also be nice to see the council giving these hardworking parents and volunteers a pat on the back for the important contribution they are making to our local youths.

I am concerned the council’s punitive approach to this issue will lead to volunteers such as my son’s coach, to rethink whether it is worth putting in all the unpaid time and effort.

I would recommend that any person receiving an infringement notice in the above circumstances write to the council to have the decision to serve the infringement notice internally reviewed. If that is unsuccessful, the matter can be heard and determined by the local magistrates’ court.

For the record, it is only fair to add that, on the whole, I believe the council has done an excellent job in the past five years to make Shepparton a much better place to live.

Luke Slater, Shepparton

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