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#GoToTown Campaign

8th September 2021


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I rise to speak on the government's #GoToTown campaign, which was announced last week. In the Premier's own words:

South Australians are being invited to get behind the many businesses which help make Adelaide the most liveable city in Australia. Whether it’s date night, mate’s night, a lazy morning or a family weekend, your city needs you to #GoToTown.

As part of this initiative there is a series of events and activities that are being organised as part of a FOMO program, and the City of Adelaide is also offering free car parking at selected UParks and discounted parking at Wilson Parking for FOMO Fridays.

Of course, we in the Greens welcome any initiatives that are going to encourage more people to come into the city and that will support local businesses, particularly during this economic crisis, but what is really, profoundly disappointing is the focus once again from the City of Adelaide—the city council—and the state government on car travel as the only form of travel that is being incentivised and encouraged. Why on earth has the state government not considered putting on free public transport to bring more people into the city, to encourage more people to attend these events?

It makes sense for the government to say, 'Let's put the resources in to provide free bus services,' for instance, 'so that people are more likely to stay in town, have a few drinks at local restaurants and pubs and can get home safely.' Instead, we have seen a continuation of the car-centric vision that has really defined this government. We know, of course, that they have failed to roll out any more bikeways or indeed invest in cycling infrastructure at all.

It is not just me or the Greens that are making these comments. I think it is instructive to hear from the experts here. I quote from an article in CityMag and a lecturer from Flinders University in urban geography and urban and regional planning, Gerti Szili, who told CityMag that although the CBD suffered immensely in the wake of COVID-19 and recent restrictions:

'I’m not really convinced that offering free parking is the way to [bring people back].'

They’ve tried this in other cities in Australia and certainly overseas, and I don’t think it’s actually proven to bring revenue that’s been lost back to the city.'

She also says the move flouts the City of Adelaide's own ambitious plan to become one of the world's first carbon neutral cities.

'We know that emissions from transport are one of the biggest contributors to GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions,' Szili says.

'So to meet the targets that the council had set for themselves, I don’t think it’s a particularly smart idea to encourage people to drive to the city and then take up that free parking offer.'

It is not just Dr Szili who says this. The urban and regional planning senior lecturer at the University of Adelaide, Andrew Allan, also expressed cynicism about the plan. He says he is surprised that the council thinks that it will work:

'I don’t know if it’s going to make a huge difference. Doubling of patronage is not likely,' he says.

I can only agree with those sentiments. This initiative is costing the council around $300,000 in lost revenue, according to those media reports. Imagine what the city council could have done, or the state government for that matter, if they had put that money into pop-up bikeways during the pandemic in terms of trying to encourage more visitation to the city. You have Berlin, you have Paris, you have Sydney and Melbourne—so many cities around the world and in our own nation that have invested in pop-up cycling infrastructure as a way of encouraging healthy communities and as a way of encouraging clean and green transport.

What has the City of Adelaide done? It has knocked back money from the state government to roll out a separated bikeway, the east-west bikeway. Why has it done so? I can only assume that has been at the behest of the factional leader Alex Hyde, who works for Nicolle Flint and is a senior figure in the Liberal Party's right-wing faction. I can only assume that the climate scepticism of Nicolle Flint and the hard right of the Liberal Party has poisoned the well in Town Hall and also led them down the folly of rejecting sensible policy.

This Go to Town campaign is a missed opportunity. I do not mean to go to town on the idea, but it is a missed opportunity and more money could have been put into alternatives.