Coalition promises free parking in all regions and rural areas in connection with the election campaign on the cost of living

Patients, staff and visitors can enjoy free parking at all rural and regional public hospitals in New South Wales from 1 July, according to a new election pledge the government will announce on Wednesday.

While parking is free at most public hospitals outside of Greater Sydney, parking fees at these hospitals can still compete with city center prices.

At Wollongong Hospital on the state’s south coast, visitors and patients pay $20.20 to park for five hours, comparable to prices in Sydney. Stays from 15 minutes to an hour cost $6.80.

Upstate Lismore Base Hospital charges $8.60 for parking four hours or more and $3.50 for 15 minutes to an hour.

NSW Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Regional Development Paul Toole, who will announce the policy on Wednesday, said it was a welcome initiative for the region’s residents who are forced to travel farther for medical care.

“The last thing patients, their loved ones and staff need is to bear the added burden of shelling out money for parking on arrival, especially if they don’t pay for parking elsewhere in this community,” Mr Toole said.

Regional Health Minister Bronnie Taylor said it was a “smart, targeted” initiative to reduce the “peculiar cost of living pressures faced by people in rural and regional New South Wales.”

“Despite the fact that we are investing more and more in public transportation in our regions, driving is often the only option for many when it comes to visiting our loved ones in the hospital,” Ms Taylor said.

“From creating a $250 million regional travel card for the elderly to investing $149.5 million in a travel and accommodation assistance program for isolated patients, this government is committed to reducing the cost of travel to the regions.”

In Sydney, the Sydney Eye Hospital in the CBD has the highest parking rates of any government agency. The fee increases to $66 for parking more than three hours, or $9 for parking less than 30 minutes.

During Covid-19, all NSW Health employees were provided with free public hospital parking while social distancing restrictions were in place. These concessions were canceled in April 2021.

Originally published as The coalition promises free parking at all regional, rural hospitals