Would you pay to park at Hobie Beach?

Councillor makes waves with proposal to tackle crime at night

Ward 2 councillor Renaldo Gouws is proposing paid-for parking at Hobie Beach at night
Ward 2 councillor Renaldo Gouws is proposing paid-for parking at Hobie Beach at night
Image: Eugene Coetzee

A proposal has been made that night visitors to Port Elizabeth’s Hobie Beach be charged for parking.

It is being championed by Nelson Mandela Bay Ward 2 councillor Renaldo Gouws, who says the money collected could be used to hire private security to improve safety in the precinct.

The proposal has received mixed reaction from businesses at the Hobie Beach complex.

Gouws has called for a meeting with Ward 2 residents and city officials on Thursday to discuss his proposal, among others, which he explained stemmed from sporadic incidents of crime at the beach.

He said the meeting, which would be closed to anyone who does not live in the ward, would determine a way forward.

Explaining the reasoning to the proposal, Gouws said: “There have been a couple of events over the past two to three years that have been very problematic.

“These include a rape or two and the killing of a parking marshal. There have also been attacks.

“There is clearly a problem in one of our main attractions.”

Gouws said more recently the lack of control in the parking lot at night had been highlighted by “pens down” parties.

He said he had been inundated with calls from residents about cars parked at Hobie Beach at about 4am and 5am.

“The problem that we currently have is that we don’t have any actual presence from the police because they are understaffed and it’s the same with metro police as they are busy fighting the northern areas battle,” Gouws said.

“At the moment, when something happens on the beachfront, the response will be to call the police or the metro police.

“It is a reactionary response rather than preventative one.”

He added that a Facebook poll in April had received an overwhelming response, with about 94% of the people voting in support of the proposal to have paid parking at Hobie Beach at night.

“I have suggested that the problematic area becomes a paid parking [area] at night.

“The money that will be generated will be used to pay private security on the premises,” Gouws said.

“It is not a money-making scheme. It’s not there to do anything or exclude people, but it is there to protect the people who are wanting to visit the pier.”

Listing the benefits, he said the move would create jobs, reduce crime in the area, and provide safety and security for tourists and residents visiting the beachfront.

He added that when paid parking was introduced at the Brookes Hill and Bayworld parking lots, the crime rate was significantly reduced.

Gouws said the process would include public participation before the municipal processes could start until it is finally presented to council.

“The emphasis is not so much as making it paid parking, but is on having security there in that period,” he said.

Should Ward 2 residents push to have this proposal implemented, it would need the nod from the council before it can take effect.

The most important thing to me as a ward councillor is the safety of my residents. I will not be apologetic in wanting...

Posted by Cllr Renaldo Gouws on Monday, 1 July 2019

Business operators at the restaurant complex at Hobie Beach have mixed views on the move.

Barney’s Tavern manager Jethro Barnard said he did not agree with the proposal.

“The metro can’t currently even patrol the area, how will they now have mechanisms in place to make people pay for parking?,” Barnard said.

“I definitely disagree. The problem is that the issues are not in the evening or at night; the issues are during the day.”

The metro can’t even patrol the area, how will they . . . make people pay for parking?
Jethro Barnard , business manager

He said there had been times when car guards had slashed customers’ tyres.

“The problem is during the day, when we have car guards who aren’t supposed to be there.

“The car guards have in the past deflated customers’ tyres and we have reported this numerous times to the metro.

“We have appealed to the beach office and the municipality to show us what is happening with metro security.”

Barnard said they would like to see more metro police visibility.

“The issue is not controlling the parking lot, the issue is getting the metro police to actually do their work and start patrolling the area.

“The problem is that there are no metro police and no security other than the people we hire ourselves to make sure our customers are happy.”

Blue Water Cafe manager Bartho de Vries said he believed it would be beneficial.

“I am not saying that the public shouldn’t have access but the money could be used to upgrade the parking area, keep it neat and tidy and also give car guards uniforms and perhaps a control room they could contact when there is a problem,” De Vries said.

He said they would also be willing to offer complimentary parking to customers.

“If it happens, maybe customers can have the first hour free. I don’t think people should pay from the first minute, especially people who come to pick up orders,” De Vries said.

Safety and security acting executive director Shane Brown said he did not see how paid parking would help.

“I cannot see this bringing a major difference because people who are not going to pay [for parking] can just walk down [from other parking areas],” he said.

“The demand for parking down there is mostly in the festive season, the rest of the year you can drive down there anytime and there is nobody down there.

“It’s not going to change anything, because people can always park elsewhere.”

Brown said there was a metro police satellite office at Bayworld but staff shortages meant patrolling in the area was limited.

Political parties have said they would not support the proposal.

The ACDP’s Lance Grootboom said it would not support the proposal.

“Our beaches are for our residents.

“We will never be in support of something like that, people from the township go to the beach on weekends and some people go after work.

“With the economy in the state that it is in now, we still want to charge people to go to the beach?

“That is something the ACDP will never support,” Grootboom said.

Patriotic Alliance councillor Marlon Daniels said the proposal was crazy.

“The guy is mad, he must not come here with a white man’s mentality, a beach is for recreational purposes, the ocean does not belong to white people,” Daniels said.

UDM councillor and Bay mayor Mongameli Bobani said it would not support the proposal.

“We will never support private security companies to deal with matters that the government can work on, but we will support anyone who wants to fight crime but not at the expense of our residents,” Bobani said.

ANC councillor Bicks Ndoni said it would engage on the matter at portfolio committee level.