30 Jun 2017

Shoppers angry at New Plymouth parking charge

8:18 pm on 30 June 2017

New Plymouth businesses and shoppers are up in arms about the reintroduction of paid parking in the CBD on Saturdays.

Brent Purvis thinks the council gets enough money from ratepayers without reintroducing paid parking on a Saturday.

Brent Purvis thinks the council gets enough money from ratepayers without reintroducing paid parking on a Saturday. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

A year-long free parking trial comes to an end tomorrow and people will have to pay $2 an hour for the privilege of parking their cars in the city.

The New Plymouth District Council says free parking in the CBD on a Saturday is not worth the $310,000 in forgone revenue.

But many retailers and shoppers disagree.

The manager of designer clothing store Magazine, Jan McFadyen, said free parking had given the business a boost in tough times and she would be sad to see it go.

"I'm in a ladies clothing shop and our ladies come in and want to have a really good look at what's in here.

"We often have ladies say 'oops I've got to get going because I haven't got enough in my parking' and we found Saturday mornings wonderful. It certainly increased our turnover on Saturdays."

Ms McFadyen was sceptical that the council would invest the $300,000 in the CBD as it had promised.

Free parking resulted in a 20 percent increase in the occupancy rate on Saturdays with 60 percent of spaces being filled. It also increased the length of stay to an average of one hour and 40 minutes.

The co-owner of the Crowded House Bar & Grill, Kerry Simeon, was also not thrilled about the return of paid parking.

"It's a bit disappointing. I think it is going to stop some people coming into town, well certainly parking in the CBD to do their bits and pieces on a Saturday.

"I'm lucky I've got a carpark out the back but I'm sure there's a group of people that will save the two bucks and park further out of town and we're missing out on them coming in and spending with us."

Not surprisingly parkers in the city were not pleased either.

In town on a shopping trip, Brent Purvis said weekend parking should be free.

"It should be, definitely Sundays and Saturdays should be as well. They get enough money anyway."

Chelsea Walsh was having a girls' day out with sister Nicola and mate Lisa Appert.

"It's a bit annoying to be honest. I always like the luxury of having free parking and I think it's a bit unfair.

"I kinda stay away from town because I have to pay for parking during the week and I'll probably stay away from it a bit more now."

Peggy Chen was more understanding.

"I have mixed feelings actually because I can see where they are coming from, but personally extra payments are always not good."

New Plymouth councillor Shaun Biesiek is driving the council's plans to reinvigorate the city's CBD.

Mr Biesiek said the council was not convinced free parking was the best use of the $310,000.

"You'll never get everyone happy and no one wants to pay, but at the end of the day we need to ensure we are getting the best bang for our buck and free parking on a Saturday wasn't in the unanimous view of councillors the best bang for buck."

Rate were raised to compensate for Saturday free parking but anyone hoping reintroducing charges would result in a rates decrease could think again, Mr Biesiek had other plans.

"No, the rates won't go down by the corresponding amount because it's not money that's being put against the rates, we're still spending it.

"Whereas last year we were spending it on free parking this year it on initiatives in the CBD."

Those initiatives would include new street furniture, tree rejuvenation, increased cleaning in the CBD and funding for special events, Mr Biesiek said.

In the meantime, shoppers in New Plymouth were reminded they could park for free for 10 minutes at any one of the city's metered parks.