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THROSBY: ALP’s Stephen Jones wins

THROSBY: ALP’s Stephen Jones wins

Throsby candidates: Stephen Jones for the ALP and Juliet Arkwright for the Liberal Party Newly-elected ALP MP Stephen Jones with his wife Julia Quilter celebrate at the Illawarra Yacht Club. Picture: ROBERT PEET
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Union official Stephen Jones will be among the new chums in Federal Parliament after winning the seat of Throsby tonight for Labor.Mr Jones is at the Lake Illawarra Yacht Club where he has just declared victory. PHOTO GALLERY: The Illawarra decidesWhile admitting there was a degree of arrogance in declaring before 50 per cent of the vote had been counted, Mr Jones said he had elected to put wind-wearied volunteers out of their misery. Addressing a crowd of around 100 ALP volunteers and devotees at the Illawarra Yacht Club tonight, Mr Jones praised retiring member Jennie George for passing on such a solid foundation. ‘‘As I’ve gone out around the place I’ll tell you its been a lot easier for me to say I’m Stephen Jones and I represent the Labor Party when you’re immediate predecessor has been Jennie George,’’ he said. ‘‘She has done such a fantastic job, been a fantastic community representative, a great advocate for Labor and Labor values.’’With over 70 per cent of the vote counted at 9pm, Mr Jones triumphed with 51 per cent of first preferences.Liberal candidate Juliet Arkwright took a notable 30 per cent of first preferences while Peter Moran of the Greens claimed close to 12 per cent.On a two-party preferred basis, Labor has taken 67 per cent of the vote with the Liberal Party taking 33 per cent.Mr Jones replaces the retiring Jennie George, a former president of the ACTU.Throsby lost some working class areas to the seat of Gilmore in a redistribution. COMMENT: NSW voters punish LaborTHROSBY: THE STATSUpdated: 10pmCounted: 54 of 54 booths (83.5% of votes)Primary votes:ALP 51.15%Libs 29.85%Greens 11.75%Nationals 5.42%Two-party preferred:ALP 60.85%Libs 39.15%

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GILMORE: Gash expected tighter race

GILMORE: Gash expected tighter race

Gilmore candidates: The ALP's Neil Reilly and the Liberal's Joanna Gash Newlyweds Natalie Potter and Matthew Lightfoot arrive at Gerringong Public School to cast their vote. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI
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Victory: re-elected Liberal MP Joanna Gash. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI

Sitting Liberal member Joanna Gash has defied her critics to win the marginal seat of Gilmore for a sixth term.She overcame the addition to her seat of Labor heartland around Shellharbour to record a convincing win over ALP rival Neil Reilly. PHOTO GALLERY: The Illawarra decidesAbout 8.15 tonight, Mrs Gash took to the stage at the Nowra School of Arts, declaring to more than 200 party faithful she was ‘‘delighted to be back’’. After spending the day handing out how-to-vote cards at every polling booth in her new areas in the north of the electorate, she arrived to a rousing reception at the Liberal Party function. A tally board in the hall showed she was the clear leader in almost all polling booths across the South Coast seat with the exception of a handful of booths, including at Flinders, Warilla and Shellharbour. She paid tribute to her campaign staff and family and said she thought the race would be closer. ‘‘We have made a dent in the Labor voting pattern up north (of Gilmore). That was something I really wanted to prove could be done. We didn’t win it in a lot of booths but we certainly gave it a good shake.’’At 9pm, with 75 per cent of votes counted, first preferences were: Liberals (Joanna Gash) 50 per cent; ALP (Neil Reilly) 36 per cent; Greens (Ben van der Wijngaart) 9 per cent. This would mean Mrs Gash would win on first preferences. On a two-party preferred basis, Mrs Gash would lead 54-46 per cent over Mr Reilly. COMMENT: NSW voters punish LaborWhile Mrs Gash has held the seat since 1996, this election it was notionally regarded a Labor seat (0.4 per cent) because of a redistribution.Gilmore stretches from Bawley Point in the south, up through Burrill Lake, Milton, Ulladulla and into Nowra. Further north Gilmore takes in Gerringong and Kiama. Since the redistribution it includes Shellharbour, Shell Cove, Barrack Heights, Warilla and a small part of Albion Park Rail. These were thought to greatly favour the ALP, but Mrs Gash seems to have made good inroads into this heartland.Labor candidate Neil Reilly declined to concede defeat despite Mrs Gash’s declaration of victory.‘‘You always wait until 100 per cent of the vote is counted,’’ he said.‘‘It’s like giving away your HSC with one exam remaining.‘‘It was an extraordinarily intense campaign with little time to prepare.’’He said the six per cent swing against Labor was not due to the change of ALP candidates in the seat.David Boyle, a high profile former rugby league player, was initially parachuted into the candidacy but withdrew in June after an outcry from furious rank-and-file members.‘‘David Boyle only affected one seat and when you look at that kind of swing right across the state I don’t think what happened was that influential,’’ Mr Reilly said.GILMORE: VOTING STATSUpdated: 10pmCounted: 61 of 62 booths (77% of votes)Primary votes:Libs 50.22%ALP 35.92%Greens 9.48%Two-party preferred:Libs 55.31%ALP 44.69%

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DRAGONS BLOG: Round 24 footy tips

DRAGONS BLOG: Round 24 footy tips

So here’s why the Dragons need to win at Canberra. Because it’s embarrassing. It’s embarrassing that we haven’t won there in forever. Okay since 2000, but still that feels like forever.It’s embarrassing to support a team that is usually in finals contention each year but who can’t beat a team that saves its best form until the moment the finals are out of the question (come on, Raiders fans, that must annoy you. That they can play like kings once the pressure’s off and they’re no chance of making the finals. That would annoy the hell out of me.Look, Big League this week says “since 2001, the Green Machine has made mince meat out of the Dragons”. Rugby League Week says “It’s 3716 days since the Dragons last won in Canberra”. And the Sydney Morning Herald says “when it comes to playing in Canberra, the Dragon suck big-time. Black holes wish they could suck that hard”.Okay, so I made that last one up but, if they did really say that, no-one would bat an eyelid, because it’s true. I’ve been there to see a few of those losses in person and few things are less enjoyable that sitting in an arctic-cold stadium after your team has lost to a side that should, realistically, have been little more than a speed bump.Well, I reckon this weekend is when the Dragons break their nine-year, seven-match losing streak. Why? Well, firstly, the game is being played in the afternoon rather than the night-time, when it’s much colder and when most of the Dragons’ Canberra losses have happened. So the Raiders won’t have the weather on their side.They also won’t have the throw caution to the wind “we’re not in the finals” attitude. Instead, they’ll be feeling a bit of pressure because the Raiders are still in the finals race and need to win every game to make the top eight. That creates a new wrinkle for them – they’re not just playing for pride this weekend. The result actually means something.Also after a small slump, the Dragons form has been on a steep climb the last two weeks – compared to late last year where we met them when the death wobbles had already kicked in.So it’s a new and better Dragons outfit going down to Canberra to face a worried and under pressure Raiders side. Dragons to win. The other games: Broncos, Bunnies, Sea Eagles, Bulldogs, Storm, Tigers, TitansSeason so far: 100 points
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Roosters’ James Aubusson could join Dragons

Roosters’ James Aubusson could join Dragons

Sydney Roosters hooker James Aubusson could be bound for the St George Illawarra Dragons next year.The Mercury understands Aubusson and his manager David Riolo have met Dragons officials about a possible move south for the 2011 NRL season.Aubusson, 23, is off contract at the end of this season and is keen on a shift to Wollongong. Full coverage of the Dragons With veteran rake Luke Priddis set to hang up his boots at the end of the year, the Dragons are interested in luring Aubusson to the club to fill the void.Aubusson, who has missed most of 2010 with an ankle injury, has attracted interest from several clubs, according to Riolo.When contacted by the Mercury yesterday, Riolo was reticent to comment on the situation."I don't like to get involved with player announcements," he said. "That's up to the clubs."Aubusson, a lively dummy-half who made his debut for the Melbourne Storm in 2007, is in the final year of a three-year contract with the Roosters.His brother Mitchell recently re-signed with the tri-colours, but James is unlikely to remain a Rooster beyond the end of the season.Nathan Fien still has another two years left on his contract and is the obvious first-choice No 9 selection for 2011, but Aubusson is no stranger to coming off the bench.In his 55 first-grade appearances, the former Australian Schoolboy has started on the pine 40 times, coming on as an impact player.Mark Gasnier's return has left the Dragons short on salary cap funds, forcing the likes of Jeremy Smith and Neville Costigan to move to rival clubs.But the release of those players not only frees up enough money to pay for Gasnier but would also cover Aubusson's pending move.Jon Green, who was one of Wayne Bennett's most consistent forwards during the representative period, is expected to become the latest victim of the squeeze.The Melbourne Storm will be desperate to attract several bargain buys ahead of 2011, and Green is one of the players on the club's radar.Despite being keen to remain a Dragon, a less than substantial offer from the red and whites has left the prop with an important decision to make in the coming weeks.His manager Gavin Orr said the Dragons weren't able to budge on their original offer."The Dragons are in a situation where they can't make any real offers to him because of the salary cap," Orr said."We've spoken to Craig Bellamy and the Storm are interested but in the end it is up to Jon and what he wants."
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Rico the missing monkey is alive: psychic

Rico the missing monkey is alive: psychic

Psychic Lynn Overhill with Rico's family at Symbio. Ms Overhill said Toro, Bella and Mitu told her their brother would soon return. Picture: ORLANDO CHIODO Rico was stolen in May.
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The good news from animal communicator Lynn Overhill is that Rico the missing cotton-top tamarin is alive. The bad news is he's still lost - and iron deficient.The psychic Mrs Overhill visited Symbio Wildlife Park this week and telepathically communicated with Rico's family of tamarins. The result was a message of hope: don't give up on a Rico reunion.Mrs Overhill is in Wollongong for this weekend's Spiritual Festival at the Master Builders Club and the Mercury arranged for her to visit Symbio in an attempt to get to the bottom of the monkey mystery.She says Bella, Mitu and Toro told her they missed Rico, but believed he would return soon.Mrs Overhill sensed that Rico is being taken care of by someone who fell in love with him when he was stolen, but he will be returned when the time comes for veterinary care - which could be soon if he is not being fed the correct diet.Apparently, those who have him are only feeding Rico grapes and other fruit, depriving him of the protein and iron-rich worms and bugs that are a vital part of his diet.But the big question remains unanswered: where is Rico? Mrs Overhill said she could not get a read on that from his relatives.The monkeys did, however, say they were happy with their habitat at Symbio and how much they were loved.The four pygmy marmosets that were also stolen were apparently too shy to communicate with Mrs Overhill. Park owner John Radnidge said it sounded like Rico would be able to reassimilate , though it could be difficult after such a long absence.Mrs Overhill claims to have had psychic communication with animals for 18 years and said "anyone can do it, you just have to clear your mind and heighten your senses through something like meditation".She will be appearing at the Spiritual Festival, alongside psychic Amanda Roussety and alchemy specialist Michael Lamb.Mr Lamb will conduct an interactive seminar based on his 23 years' experience of spirituality, astrology and science."I'm passionate about unifying people ... so it's all about universal love and understanding," Mr Lamb said.He is also an ancient mythology enthusiast researching folklore and legendary creatures. The festival runs from 10am-7pm today and 10am-4pm tomorrow.

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20 minutes to win finals: Trent Barrett

20 minutes to win finals: Trent Barrett

Trent BarrettFormer St George Illawarra captain Trent Barrett believes the Dragons' chances of breaking their title drought this year could be defined in just 20 minutes.Barrett yesterday said an impressive start to their qualifying final in four weeks' time would be all the competition leaders needed to bury their past demons.The 32-year-old knows the heartache better than most. Full coverage of the Dragons He still can't bring himself to watch the 1999 grand final and admits he took the shattering 2005 and '06 preliminary final losses to heart.Now captain of the Sharks, who are out of the finals race, Barrett will retire at the end of the season and realises that a premiership will forever elude him.But after St George Illawarra's disastrous 2009 finals campaign, Barrett has watched his former club closely this year and believes its time has finally arrived."I don't think there's a major problem or a psychological problem for them," he said."It's just how the cards have been dealt a bit in the last few years."I think if St George Illawarra can get off to a good start in one of their semi-finals, they'll gain some confidence and realise it's just another game."The stakes are a bit higher and the intensity is higher, but if they can go on and put a score on in the first week of the semi-finals that will give them a helluva lot of confidence."In an exclusive interview, Barrett reflects on his career - missing out on that title, his early years with the Steelers, State of Origin, leaving the Dragons, his time in England and with the Sharks, as well as the future, in tomorrow's edition of the Illawarra Mercury.Barrett's decorated career will come to a close at Penrith's CUA Stadium on September 4, having made his debut against the Panthers for the Illawarra Steelers on August 25, 1996.And while his immediate focus is producing victories in Cronulla's remaining games, Barrett will be cheering the Dragons during their finals campaign.He declared top form was yet to come for Wayne Bennett's men."All the signs are there, they look a bit healthier than they did this time last year," he said."They had a lot of blokes in the team who had never played in semi-finals before, so they're going to have learned a helluva lot from that."Watching them [beat Manly 32-10] I thought they were pretty good."They get criticised for being a bit boring at times, but who cares?"If you're going to win, who cares how you win."Barrett said the key to the Dragons' title success would be a dominant performance by their forward pack."It will be won on the back of their forward pack and [NSW prop Michael] Weyman and all their young blokes are going pretty well, and Benny Creagh is starting to find some form again," he said."[Captain] Benny Hornby being back is pretty important to them, he gives them a lot of composure and he's leading them really well."
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BUSINESS AND FINANCE BRIEFS

BUSINESS AND FINANCE BRIEFS

Uncertainty over News Corp.
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SYDNEY - Investors will remain cautious about Rupert Murdoch's media empire until he does something about Liberty Media Corp. 's threatening presence on News Corp. Inc.'s share register.

Although Mr Murdoch said on Thursday that the issue with Liberty's owner, John Malone, would be resolved within three months, analysts said the uncertainty was hanging over News Corp.'s stock.

"We believe that Liberty's large voting stake and the possibility that News Corp. will pay a premium to regain these votes has been a significant overhang," Merrill Lynch said in a research report.

Investors hope Mr Murdoch will banish takeover fears by buying back some of the 18 per cent News Corp. stake that Mr Malone's cable group bought behind Mr Murdoch's back last year.

"Until the situation is resolved, investors will likely remain concerned over the possibility that News Corp. will purchase one of Liberty's operating assets as part of a package deal to regain Liberty's News Corp. shares," Merrill Lynch said.

Investors might view News Corp as "tainted" if it bought an asset that it would not otherwise buy just to get back its voting stock, the broker said.

Sunleisure float cancelled

SYDNEY - The $200 million float of tourism and leisure entity Sunleisure yesterday became the latest victim of a market that has lost its appetite for property groups.

Property developer Sunland Group Ltd issued a profit downgrade after it and finance and investment manager City Pacific Ltd cancelled the float due to "adverse market conditions".

The move came just three days after a profit warning by developer Mirvac Group and data showing a sharp drop in March building approvals sparked selling in companies with exposure to residential property.

Sunland managing director Soheil Abedian said the global and domestic market's former passion for small cap companies had waned.

"Our segment of the industry, property, is really severely suffering here in Australia because of the downturn in the property sector, so we had to act on that, and we did," Mr Abedian said.

Sunland's stock was hammered after the Gold Coast-based property developer warned its profit result would be impacted because it would no longer get additional income from the float of Sunleisure. The company's shares fell 26c to $1.29.

New excitement for Judge

BRISBANE - Bruce Judge was reluctant to say it but the former Ariadne boss was excited about presiding over the demise of Big Kev's Ltd and the birth of his new publicly listed company.

Big Kev's shareholders yesterday voted to wrap up the cleaning business and rename it Impact Capital Ltd - a pre-settlement lending company headed by Mr Judge.

Big Kev's was listed in 2001 by founder and chairman Kevin "Big Kev" McQuay - known for his loud shirts and catchcry: "I'm excited".

Asked whether he was now excited, Mr Judge, who is Impact Capital's executive chairman, said "yes and no".

"I'm excited because I love the project and I love the people we are working with," he said.

"I'm also conscious of the obligation and I know we have to make this work and I'm sure we will."

Mr McQuay elected not to witness the end of his company, which never made a profit during its life on the Australian Stock Exchange.

But for Mr Judge it marked a rebirth for the New Zealand corporate raider, who in the 1980s presided over the demise of the company Ariadne - which, at the time, recorded Australia's largest corporate loss.

Commitment to AAPT confirmed

SYDNEY - Telecom Corp. of New Zealand Ltd remains committed to its Australian business AAPT, despite its failure to grow revenues.

Even though AAPT's revenues and earnings were virtually flat during the first nine months of the year, Telecom NZ is continuing to pour more money into the business to try to make it grow.

"We are committed to our presence in Australia," Telecom NZ chief executive Theresa Gattung said yesterday. "We are starting to see some encouraging signs in the underlying metrics of the business and we think it is well worth having a crack at trying to see if we can accelerate that momentum."

Telecom NZ is committing $NZ105 million this financial year and $NZ140 million next year in capital expenditure for the Australian business.

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City coffers drained by parking meter loss

City coffers drained by parking meter loss

A parking meter on Kembla St that will be one of four removed in the near future as part of the council's parking review. Picture: ANDY ZAKELIThe proposed introduction of pro rata parking fees in the Wollongong CBD will cost Wollongong City Council an estimated $405,000 in lost revenue this financial year.Council administrators will decide on Tuesday whether to abandon the $2 flat fee for CBD parking in favour of pro-rata fees and a raft of other changes, including turning meters off at 4.30pm on weekdays and all day on weekends.Motorists will be able to insert as little as 10c into the meters, with parking to be charged at $1 an hour, or 50c for half-an-hour), in 30-minute, one-hour and two-hour parking zones. VOTE: Are you satisfied with the parking meter compromise?In longer-stay three and four-hour time zones, parking will be charged at 75c per hour, or less for a shorter stay.Four under-utilised meters in Church St, between Ellen and Bank streets, would be removed.The report, to be tabled at the council meeting, reveals that the changes will slash the council's parking income from $943,000 to just $538,000 for this financial year.Revenue will be allocated to projects including a new 85-space car park on Ellen St, footpath improvements and a new pedestrian crossing at Lowden Square.The changes would provide relief to many business owners, Illawarra Business Chamber (IBC) chief executive Greg Fisher said."We are pleased council has listened to our concerns and taken on board many of the suggestions the IBC put forward."He particularly welcomed the earlier end to metered parking on weekdays, and the return of free parking on Saturdays."That will help the hospitality industry and retailers who have lost Saturday trade," Mr Fisher said.But retailers including Gala Trophies owner Gareth Leyshon, John Skipp of Skipp Surf and Mr Quickfix owner Jim McDonogh were less certain.While all were hopeful the changes would bring customers back to the city, they feared it could be too little, too late."I think we have lost customers who won't come back. The meters have already done the damage," Mr Leyshon said.Mr McDonogh said the new fees were "probably a little bit better"."But I still think it is a disgrace people have to pay to spend their money in Wollongong," he said.Neighbourhood Forum 5's Felix Bronneberg was pleased with the progress and urged the council to continue monitoring meter usage."We hope this change will not disadvantage traders in the CBD," he said.Statistics contained in the council's parking review highlight the public sentiment that prompted the meter backflip.An IRIS Research phone survey of 450 residents found that 51 per cent of those surveyed had changed their pattern of visiting the CBD since the introduction of paid on-street parking - either by staying away, using alternative transport or visiting at different times.Of those whose habits had changed, one-quarter said they now did their shopping elsewhere, while 11 per cent parked elsewhere.SIX IN THE CITYHow will free parking on Saturdays change your shopping habits? Page 31
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Asbestos threat to Mt Pleasant school

Asbestos threat to Mt Pleasant school

Jody Byrnes managed to get former prime minister John Howard's signature on a petition to keep open Warilla North Public School. Picture: DAVE TEASEExcavation works linked to the Federal Government's Building the Education Revolution works at a Mt Pleasant primary school could have exposed students and teachers to potentially deadly asbestos fibres, concerned parents claim.Pleasant Heights Public School parents say contractors did at least two weeks of excavations at a site in the school previously flagged on a Department of Education registry as possibly containing asbestos fibres.The claims come less than a week after Warilla North Public School parents revealed they were fearful their school would be shut permanently because of asbestos discoveries in May, which had forced students into nearby schools in the interim.Warilla North parent Jody Byrnes upped the ante on Tuesday, taking her cause to a higher power. Former prime minister John Howard, campaigning in the Gilmore electorate with Liberal candidate Joanna Gash, signed a petition to keep the school open.But Mr Howard's signature could be required again, with construction union official Peter Primmer this week warning parents he knew of at least half-a-dozen more schools in the region where asbestos had been uncovered during Building the Education Revolution works, but wouldn't say which ones.The Department of Education and Training would not confirm if the hazardous material had been found in schools or if removal works had been carried out during school hours. But it did admit many schools were built at a time when asbestos-laced building products were commonly used.A spokesperson said: "It is not disputed that fibro containing asbestos was a common building product until its use was ceased in 1987. Any school opened after 1988 will be asbestos-free."The department would not answer questions about how many schools in the Illawarra had been built pre-1987.Meantime, parents of students at Pleasant Heights Public School have been left with few answers. A 2008 management plan for the site, adjacent to the school's library, classified the area as "low risk" provided the earth remained undisturbed.But according to the parents who spoke to the Mercury, earthworks at the site had been occurring for at least two weeks before a mother noticed what she believed was asbestos and raised the alarm.A WorkCover spokesperson said work had ceased immediately on the site after the discovery of "suspected asbestos" and the site was made secure.But mother of two, Beth Matters, said she was concerned children and teachers may have been exposed to the dangerous fibres during the initial work period."They've made it safe now, but how about when they were churning the soil up for two weeks while it contained asbestos?" she said."The site management plan says before works are undertaken, a licensed removalist needs to come and take it away, which obviously hasn't happened, otherwise they wouldn't need someone to do it now."The department yesterday confirmed "a couple of bonded fibro pieces" had been found in the ground at the school.A spokesperson said the site's managing contractor, Richard Crookes Construction, was planning for the removal of the bonded fibro as well as "carrying out further tests around the site to identify if there were any other affected areas"."Every care is being taken to ensure student and teacher safety and well-being."
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The city parking plan that just might stick

The city parking plan that just might stick

Free weekend parking, reduced fees and extended time limits are among a raft of changes to be introduced after Wollongong City Council's capitulation on parking meters in the CBD.If administrators adopt the recommendations of a council review, motorists will be able to pay as little as 40c to park for half an hour in three and four-hour zones, and 50c per half hour in half-hour, one-hour and two-hour zones.Free on-street parking will return on Saturdays, although time limits will remain from 8.30am to 12.30pm.On weekdays, parking meters will be switched off at 4.30pm instead of 6pm.All council off-street car parks will be free and unrestricted on weekends and public holidays.The number of free 15-minute spaces will more than double to 72 and 145 spaces will have their time limits doubled.Also, four parking meters between Bank and Ellen streets will be removed after the review found they were underutilised.The review will be put to administrators at an ordinary meeting of council on Tuesday.If adopted, the changes will take effect from September 13.The meters were introduced in March with a flat $2 fee. A six-month review was brought forward after intense campaigning by CBD retailers who claimed the meters were killing trade.The council tinkered with parking fees twice in July, introducing limited pro rata charges and lowering flat fees to 50c in half-hour zones and $1 in one-hour zones.Yesterday, council place manager Peter Chrystal admitted the council got it wrong with flat fees."We admit that the flat fee probably wasn't the right fee to start with, and that pro rata fees are more appropriate," he said.He defended the introduction of the meters, pointing to council figures that showed a steady increase in usage. According to those figures, 17,256 people used the meters in the week ending August 13."But we'd like to see a lot more occupancy in the CBD. So we're adjusting our price to encourage more people to park," he said.Community business group "We Love Wollongong But We Hate the Parking Meters" led the charge against the meters and spokesman Phil Ryan was cautiously supportive of the changes."On the premise that council refuses to remove the meters, I support anything that'll help bring people back into the CBD," he said.Noel Perry of Downtown Newsagency on lower Crown St said it was too little, too late from the council. "To me it's not going to be a solution at all. The mere word of parking meters is the thing," he said.Customers were turned off by the need to keep an eye on their watches while in the city.
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