Parking dramas in the Parliamentary Triangle.

Parking dramas in the Parliamentary Triangle. Photo: Graham Tidy

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Driving through gardens, parking on dirt mounds, even scraping against walls to find a technically free space – the old Canberra favourite of verge parking takes on a whole new meaning in the Parliamentary Triangle as workers try out a number of creative solutions to avoid paying, according to the National Capital Authority.

But the authority believes a proposal in Tuesday’s federal budget to introduce pay parking in the precinct at about $11 a day would help equalise access to parking, and would ease the current space squeeze.

NCA chief Gary Rake said a quick trip around the federal land before 9am on almost any weekday will reveal cars parked on grass and across bike paths, and commuters parking for free then walking or riding the final distance to their office nearby.

“I went for a run around the lake this morning, and I saw several blokes in business attire riding kids’ scooters towards Civic. It’s pretty clear that they’ve parked somewhere else, probably here where it’s free, and they’re riding their scooter across the bridge into the city,” Mr Rake said.

“They’re not actually doing anything wrong, it’s perfectly legal for them to do that. They’re just reacting to a system that has allowed this incentive to arise.”

Mr Rake said some of the worst examples of people going to great lengths for free parking included:

  • Cars driving up the curb, over the bike path, over a 2 metre dirt mound (where one driver removed a tree guard to allow for easier access), and through a garden to access a boom-gated parking area at the National Gallery – since rectified;
  • People parking hard up against an architecturally-designed concrete wall in York Park to get around parking signage for some technically free parking – since rectified with new signs;
  • Cars parked on the grass south of the National Library;
  • Cars parked across the bike path between the National Museum and Lake Burley Griffin;
  • Drivers parking on a steep 4 metre dirt mound designed to stop cars near the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade – since rectified with signs, bollards and rocks.

“When it rained, it was so steep the cars would slide down the mud and into each other,” Mr Rake said.

“We had people threatening to sue us because their vehicle had been damaged being parked in that informal manner.”

There have also been reports of organised short-distance carpooling, where colleagues meet in a free carpark, then all travel into the city in a single car to split the cost of parking.

Mr Rake said the current parking situation effectively encouraged this sort of behaviour, and it would only get worse the longer free parking was allowed to continue.

“The efforts that people go to get a free park are symptomatic of the core problem that we’re trying to solve,” he said.

“Because parking in this area is free, and in surrounding areas, whether it be Barton or Civic, there’s pay parking, it creates an incentive for people to find a way to get that free parking. And the longer we leave that in place, the more over time the price in those areas will go up, as is normal, that incentive gets bigger and bigger and so people will go to greater and greater lengths.”

Mr Rake said introducing a paid parking scheme in the area would free up spaces for both tourists, and for workers in the area who weren’t able to arrive early to compete for a spot but would be willing to pay for one.

National institutions in the parliamentary triangle are wrestling with imposing paid parking on their staff and volunteers or risk having free parks swamped with public servants.

Along with Parliament House, the four independent national institutions that control their own car parks - the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, High Court and War Memorial - face this dilemma.

Management at the institutions had little to say on Wednesday as they considered whether to adopt ''government policy in the management of their car parks'' - as stated in the budget briefing papers - or take a chance on visitors being able to find a park if the car parks are kept free. Without paid parking, the institutions may be liable for fringe-benefits tax for their staff having free parking.

with Ross Peake