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‘We’re cooked’: Car park operators face lockdown havoc

The sector should not hold its breath for special treatment.

A Victorian government spokesperson said the Small Business COVID Hardship Fund was created “to help businesses that have fallen between the cracks for support and are experiencing severe impacts due to the pandemic.”

The sector has fallen through the cracks somewhat, as it’s reliant on tourism rather than CBD parking.

AIG’s Victorian head Tim Piper

“We encourage businesses such as car parks to investigate their eligibility – grants of $10,000 are available and we will process applications as quickly as we can,” the spokesman said.

Federal tourism minister Dan Tehan said the Commonwealth was sharing costs with the state governments “to deliver support to small- and medium-sized businesses impacted by COVID-19 lockdowns”.

Mr Wilson said the $10,000 grant, while welcome, would cover less than a week of costs. He said the company only survived because it also had operations in Brisbane and Adelaide which were less affected by lockdowns.

“In all honesty there is no hope for us in the short term to get anywhere near what we typically do. We are a little bit cooked at the moment.“

The rolling lockdowns mean the broader car park sector is faring only slightly better, given its reliance on commuting office workers.

CEO of industry group Parking Australia Stuart Norman said while “no one’s going broke yet”, the financial pressures were mounting.

“If the current situation continues, whether extended or yo-yoing lockdowns … car park operators can’t continue into the future under the current circumstances,” he said.

The rolling lockdowns in Sydney and Melbourne have seen occupancies tumble, with 80 per cent of car park patronage usually attributed to office workers.

“No amount of Sydney and Melbourne City Council incentives to get people to return to city centres will have any impact if stay-at-home work orders continue and people cannot move beyond their five kilometres,” said Care Parking managing director Robert Belteky.

“Once lockdowns lift, utilisation of city parking spaces is expected to recover very quickly as people do not want to use public transport and will rely on travelling by car to their office locations.”

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The Perth-based Parkd is eyeing opportunities in the east for its prefabricated car parks that can be built quickly and easily removed.

In Melbourne, Parkd has also proposed a temporary car park at Dockland’s Digital Harbour, one of the precinct’s few remaining vacant spaces.

Parkd CEO Peter McUtchen expects demand for “de-risked” facilities that enable companies to have their spaces in one location, deploying sensors to detect high temperatures before the commuters leave the car park.

“Employers are struggling with encouraging people to come back to work,” he said. “How can we force workers to come back in if they have to get on a train and expose themselves to the virus?”

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