The harbingers of doom have been out in force in the last few days, mostly behind the safety of their own keyboards. Even on Facebook, rarely a refuge of reason and logic, the noise has been unusually loud.
"This is the death of the CBD," read one of the more moderate examples. "Everything will be shut by Christmas."
What cataclysmic event has so upset people? What foul crimes have been committed to stir up such angst?
That would be the launch of the city's new Smarter Parking plan.
It has been discussed ad infinitum for years and debated in painstaking detail in the council chamber. Courier reporters have returned from town hall bowed down under Lever-arch files of paperwork. There have been live-blogs, broadcasts, and consultation after consultation.
After several iterations, the plan was ushered unanimously through the council chamber last year and finally launched this month. Some meters flickered into life on February 3.
The reaction, particularly online, has not been kind. Councillor Amy Johnson - one of those who approved the plan - added her voice to the clamour this week, calling for an urgent independent review at Wednesday's council meeting. Prematurely, some argued - many meters were only switched on a few days before Cr Johnson took her stance, which was also liberally sprinkled over social media, of course. "Is it an election year, by any chance?" one observer wondered rhetorically after the event.
Whether the councillor's intervention was based on political opportunism or genuine concern, the key question remains: is the Smarter Parking plan really that silly? There have been several issues, which this newspaper has not shied away from pointing out. The lack of coin meters probably tops that list, but there are other gripes: the spread of meters and issues with the premium app need addressing.
Crucially, accessibility for older people was perhaps too low on the priority list. On that note, the council's handling of the senior citizens club's legitimate gripes was clumsy and avoidable, even though it was corrected in the end.
But does the noisy reaction also say something uncomfortable about our residents' ability to move with the times?
Council officers themselves have also acknowledged a flawed roll-out. Questions have been asked about the communication with businesses, shoppers and organisations. But as ever the unhappiest voices are loudest. Those who adapt to change are less likely to shout. If you have no axe to grind, you don't tend to send letters to the editor.
And there is a positive side. Most report the app as simple to use. People popping into the CBD for short bursts are paying less. There are plenty of one hour reasons to visit the CBD and if that's all you can afford, keep it under an hour. Remember one of the key objectives of the strategy was to free up an increasingly valuable commodity; the empty car space and keep it rotating.
And where there have been complaints, tweaks have followed - even reversals - such as for the Eastwood St car park last week, with more coin meters going up to the hospital district. Should these problems have been anticipated? Maybe, but it is surely better to adapt a plan than stick rigidly to it.
Shops, office workers and residents were never all going to be happy. But does the noisy reaction also say something uncomfortable about our residents' ability to move with the times? Old habits die hard but the very Ballarat expectation of a car park immediately outside your chosen shop, office or restaurant was out-of-date, unrealistic and needed to change.
If cost for CBD workers is an issue - and clearly for many it is - is a 10-minute walk from a free parking spot on the fringes to the workplace so hard? Not if you are able bodied. Less convenient yes, but not so impossible as to warrant paying a daily fee?
Some residents just outside the CBD should also take a look at themselves. If you are lucky enough to have a driveway that fits three cars, is it that terrible for people to park outside your home while they work?
There has certainly been many legitimate issues raised but there is also a danger some of the whinging becomes self-fulfilling.
"The new parking system introduced into Ballarat is going to kill the city centre," reads one new petition. Or can it adapt and have something to offer beyond convenience?
One thing that won't help is the trashing it gets in self-interested campaigns and social media that is more likely to put people off visiting than find a solution or adaptation.
Let's continue to point out the obvious flaws but allow tweaks to be made and wait for the dust to settle, rather than cast doubt on the whole future of the CBD.
Businesses there, particularly our shops, face enough challenges - all the more so with the coronavirus scare likely to affect the number of people coming to our city.
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