23 Aug 2018

Parking fees cause council argument over church and state

6:49 pm on 23 August 2018

Heated arguments over church and state and not listening to residents kept Wellington City Councillors busy today.

A file photo of someone paying for parking in Wellington's CBD

Photo: RNZ / Edward O'Driscoll

It dominated discussions today at the City Strategy Committee meeting.

Ninety-two percent of the almost 600 Wellingtonians who made submissions were against the swapping of two hours free weekend parking in the CBD with a $2.50 per hour charge.

Roger Wigglesworth from Wellington Cathedral of St Paul told councillors the change will impact church attendance.

He suggested having part of the morning free so churchgoers can worship without being charged.

The idea was picked up by councillors, who proposed an amendment to postpone parking fees until after 10am.

Councillor Brian Dawson said it was a low demand time anyway.

"There are three groups of people out in Wellington City at that time in the morning, those doing the walk of shame, those going to the markets and then there are those going to the churches," he said.

But the chair, Ms Pannett was appalled the matter was even brought up.

"I do not see how we can single out a christian community, when there are other faiths and I think this has been done on the hop, with no analysis, and I do not think this is acceptable," she said.

This comment didn't sit well with councillor Brian Dawson.

"I find it fascinating we give special treatment to different groups of people all the time, but the moment someone adds church to the word we have a problem," he said.

The matter split the council in two, with a vote from the mayor tipping the scales against the move.

Consultation had already taken place under the long-term plan, but an amendment to lower rates if enough revenue is raised, was introduced by counsellor Andy Foster.

Councillor Chris Calvi-Freeman said there was already adequate time to make changes.

"The time to debate this was several months ago, we had a thorough debate on the Long-Term Plan," he said

But Mr Foster said there hadn't been enough attention given to the matter.

"I don't recall we even debated it, it was just buried within the long term plan.

"We are going to look like a council who actually who interested pure and simple in revenue raising, so the words in there [the proposal] are cheap but the parking will cost," he said.

The weekend parking fees passed, and will take effect from 8 September, regardless of the reason why residents were coming into town.