I noticed in the Gold Coast Bulletin that personal trainers on the GC are outraged the Council will start imposing an annual $200 fee for them to use parks, consistent with councils in Brisbane and elsewhere. It makes sense for councils to charge GC PTs who are gaining commercial advantage from using parks because they don’t have to pay rent for the space. Indeed, it might even make sense for the Council to charge even more than $200, depending on how much the PT uses the park.
Councils and other agencies should investigate whether there should be a wider application of user charges for parks, beaches and other recreation areas. These areas can be costly to maintain and have an opportunity cost as well, because the land could be otherwise sold and possibly developed. It is sound economics to recover some of these costs, where feasible, noting of course that some cost recovery may be uneconomic (i.e. it wouldn’t make sense to have someone collecting fees at every council park).
On user charges for recreation areas, my friend and fellow economist Boyd Blackwell, a former lifesaver who grew up on the Sunshine Coast, once courageously suggested Councils should consider charging for beach access because it would help pay for additional lifeguard services that people value. Here’s a link to the Radio National story from 2000:
If I recall correctly, this was based on a Conference of Economists paper I may have co-authored.