Some of Wollongong's mayoral hopefuls have slammed a promise from Liberals candidate John Dorahy to abolish paid parking in the city's CBD.
Cr Dorahy announced this week that a Liberal-led council would remove the meters, but time limits on parking would remain.
Independent candidate Marie Glykis was the only other mayoral candidate who said they too wanted free CBD parking.
Ms Glykis said she intended to reintroduce free parking, as well as reopen the mall to traffic and revitalise it.
"I've lived here my entire life, so I have seen what works and what doesn't," she said.
But Greens candidate Mithra Cox said Wollongong needed to look at improving other transport options, to cut the number of unnecessary trips made by car and free up parking spaces for those who really needed them.
"The thing that is really nonsense about this proposal is that making [parking] free doesn't make it more available," Cr Cox said, adding that parking was already cheap.
She said removing cars from a high-density area like the CBD was important to reduce gridlock.
Cr Tania Brown labelled the Liberal announcement a stunt, saying party candidates took the same promise to the 2011 election but then voted against free parking once in council.
"That [parking meter] revenue does get plowed back into the CBD," the Labor candidate said.
Cr Brown said the data also showed that parking meters promoted turnover of parking spaces, which retailers needed to get more customers into their shops.
Incumbent mayor, independent Gordon Bradbery, said turning off the meters would cost more than $1 million.
"I'll support a rethink of the parking meters and other arrangements but free parking isn't the magic cure to refit a city centre that is now a lot more than just a retail space," Cr Bradbery said.
The CBD was the "powerhouse" of the region, he said, and this was why parking was sometimes difficult to find - not because of parking meters.
Andrew Anthony from the Sustainable Australia Party similarly expressed interest in investigating the options.
"I will be calling for a review of the parking meters," Mr Anthony said, adding that he wanted the opinion of staff as to their effectiveness and any possible changes.
He said people parked a long distance from the CBD to avoid paying, and it did not help the CBD that other shopping hubs like Figtree Grove and Shellharbour Square offered free parking.
The local government elections take place next Saturday, December 4.
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