Before you get angry, get informed.
On 22 July this year, Deakin University Vice-Chancellor (VC) Professor Jane den Hollander emailed Deakin students and staff proposing a number of changes to car parking at the university in 2012. The proposed changes include:
- increasing the annual fee for general (blue) parking permits from $203 per annum to $250 for students and $400 for staff;
- increasing fees for daily parking from $5 per day to $7.50 per day;
- abolishing free car parks at the Geelong Waurn Ponds and Warrnambool campuses, converting them to permit parking areas;
- discontinuing red parking zones, which are situated further from university buildings but which, at $101.50 p/a for red zone permits, offer a cheaper option than blue permits.
The proposed changes emerge from a review of parking at Deakin by the university’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) Graeme Dennehy and the Finance and Business Affairs Committee (FBAC).
The review was tabled at FBAC’s 10 May 2011 meeting and forwarded to the university Council. Council discussed (and presumably passed) the review at its 9 June 2011 meeting .
Parking at Deakin has been a nightmare for years, with permits only entitling permit holders to hunt for a park and Deakin’s Facilities Management Services Division placing no cap on the number of permits that it sells in any one period. The problem was formally recognised in Deakin’s 2010 Annual Report, which states that
In 2010 there were a number of improvements that were implemented as a result of action on complaints. These included:
— the engagement of an external consultant to provide advice on Deakin’s car parking administration and overall car parking strategy
How engaging an external consultant actually constitutes an implemented improvement is beyond me, but the growing chorus of complaints led university Council (to whom the VC answers) to decide that the best way to solve Deakin’s parking woes is to increase prices. And here we are.
According to the VC’s own statements, the proposed changes are part of an attempt to move Deakin parking from the current university-subsidised model (where the fees the university charges for parking do not cover the expenses of maintaining sealed parking bays and the Burwood multi-storey car park) to a user-pays model where the university’s parking-associated costs are covered by the fees they charge students and staff.
No doubt there are students and staff who drive to campus because it’s convenient and cheap(ish). Some of these people could probably catch public transport at little extra inconvenience. The proposed user-pays system may push these people to use public transport, therefore reducing demand for on-campus parking. But there are a number of problems with the user-pays model as it stands.
Firstly, user-pays systems are regressive market mechanisms. They apply to everyone, but adversely effect the poorest people. They reduce demand, but only by making parking unattractive to people who previously could only just afford it — namely, impoverished students. There are students who truly need to park on campus but who may not be able to afford the price increase — for example, parents who study and have to drop their kids off at school, people who don’t live close to public transport. The proposed changes disadvantage these people. To her credit, the VC is looking to implement a financial assistance program for students who can establish that they need to park at Deakin but can’t afford it. However, having to apply for such assistance carries its own disincentives. Some students who would qualify won’t be bothered with the no-doubt tiresome application process. Many students will be too proud to apply for what amounts to a financial handout.
The second problem with the proposed user-pays model is that it’s a faux user-pays model. Deakin parking permits cost the same across all campuses. Yet the largest parking-associated cost for Deakin is the Burwood multi-storey car park. As such, parking at Waurn Ponds is not subsidised to the same degree as parking at Burwood. Parking at Waterfront is not subsidised to the same degree as parking at Burwood. And parking at Warrnambool is not subsidised to the same degree as parking at Burwood. Accordingly, if the university truly want the user to pay, it needs to charge for permits on a campus-by-campus basis. Otherwise, when the price rise kicks in the university will no longer be subsidising parking at Burwood — Waurn Ponds, Waterfront and Warrnambool staff and students will be.
There is one more problem with the proposal. The VC is using university-incurred parking costs as a justification for the price rise, but these figures are not available to students or staff. Deakin’s 2010 Annual Report clearly states that 2010 parking revenue was $2,966,000 — up from $2,737,000 in 2009 (p. 81). However, there is no specific parking-related expense account. Staff and students are simply expected to take the VC’s word for it that parking revenue doesn’t cover costs.
But estimates of Deakin’s parking-related expenses must exist. The VC is not flying blind. Her proposed changes come off the back of the COO-FBAC report to university Council. And then there is the external consultant’s report that was commissioned in response to complaints about parking at Deakin. Where are these reports? If the latter was commissioned in response to complaints then shouldn’t it (or its recommendations) be available to those people who lodged complaints? These reports, or at minimum the university-incurred cost of parking, should be released to staff and students.
If these figures aren’t forthcoming, Deakin students and staff may request them through the Freedom of Information Act. As Deakin’s 2010 Annual Report also states:
Consistent with the requirements of the Financial Management Act 1994 (Vic), the following additional information is available on request, subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic):
— details of changes in prices, fees, charges, rates and levies charged by Deakin University
‘Details of changes’ may include parking-realted costs if those costs are used to justify the proposed changes. But, then, the Annual Report continues,
Enquiries regarding any of the above should be addressed to:
Geelong Waterfront Campus
1 Gheringhap Street
Geelong Vic 3217
Hmmm. I can see why you’d be starting to get angry. Believe the 2010 Annual Report (p. 63) and you’d think you had to direct FOI enquiries to the Vice-Chancellor — the very person whose assertions you’re questioning. Luckily, this isn’t the case. FOI requests for access to Deakin documents actually go to the manager of FOI requests in the Office of the Chief Operating Officer.
 The dates in this statement are incorrect. My information was based on the documents linked to in the above post, namely this one and, then, this one. However, it has come to my attention that the proposed changes to parking fees for 2012 were not presented to Council until its August 11 meeting. As it turns out, the Vice-Chancellor announced the proposed changes before Council had approved them. The VC sent her first mass email to staff and students on 22 July 2011. Council approved the changes on 11 August 2011. [Back to text]
Deakin University Act 2009 sets out the powers and responsibilities of Deakin University.
Here’s the specific section of The Act relating to the legal status of Deakin-issued fines.
Deakin’s parking regulations can be found here: Regulation 06.01(6) – Use of Vehicles and Parking.
Parking infringement information is here. Note that Deakin outsources its initial debt collection to a private company.
A diagram of Deakin University’s executive structure can be found here.
Deakin staff express car parking anger, The Geelong Advertiser, 29 July 2011.
Deakin responds to parking fee concern, Deakin Univerity Newsroom, 29 July 2011.
Staff anger at deakin parking increases, Alex White, NTEU at Deakin University, 28 July 2011.
Parking fees drive Deakin staff, students mad, Andrew Trounson, The Australian, 28 July 2011.
Anger at university parking rate hike, Herald Sun, 28 July 2011.
The Dr & The Colonel and Deakin’s parking, The Warrnambool Standard, 28 July 2011.
EDITORIAL: Deakin parking fees poser, The Geelong Advertiser, 27 July 2011.
Deakin students feel parking pain, Tina Liptai, The Warrnambool Standard, 26 July 2011.
Deakin students to rally over parking costs, Tina Liptai, The Warrnambool Standard, 25 July 2011.
Deakin suffers with parking woes, The Geelong Advertiser, 18 March 2011.
Deakin University students cop blast for chocking up centre’s parks, James Dowling, The Whitehorse Leader, 23 April 2010.