3 Mar 2018

Wellington divided over move to abolish free parking

9:38 pm on 3 March 2018

Wellington's Chamber of Commerce is hoping it will be easier for shoppers to find a park if free weekend parking is abolished in the capital.

Christmas shopping in Wellington.

Christmas shopping in Wellington. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The city council is considering charging $2.50 an hour for people parking in the central business district on Saturdays and Sundays, in a bid to keep rates down.

The chamber of commerce chief executive John Milford said people stay in free parks longer, and the city needs to come up with a way to ensure faster turnover for the car parks.

He said that way, people coming into the city at the weekend can be reasonably confident they will find a space.

On the streets of the CBD, people weren't impressed to hear their free weekend parks might be going.

People yesterday told RNZ they often came into town on the weekend because of the free parking. Some said they would prefer to go to the Hutt Valley or Porirua instead if they had to pay for a park in Wellington.

When it came to keeping rates down, those spoken to believed the council already charged enough for parking and could get that cash elsewhere.

The proposal to start charging for weekend parking, at $2.50 an hour, is part of the council's 10-year-plan.

Mayor Justin Lester said the council had gone through the plan with a fine-tooth comb, looking for ways to trim the fat.

He said things had changed in the CBD, and making people pay would help increase turnover, freeing up parks.

The city centre was bustling, he said, and there was a high demand for car parks.

First Retail Group managing director Chris Wilkinson yesterday said Wellington was one of the few main centres that had free parking on weekends.

He said people shop differently these days.

"In many cases they know what they're wanting to buy, they're time poor, they want to be able to find a park quickly, they want to come into the stores, get what they need, and then get back out again."

Mr Wilkinson said the city couldn't keep subsidising people's parking.

However, Mr Lester said getting rid of free parking on the weekends was just a proposal - and anyone who felt strongly against it could make a submission as part of the 10-year-plan process.