Free parking a retailer's 'dream'

By John Cousins


Options to make Tauranga's downtown more shopper friendly will be high on the agenda of a special council workshop next week to deal with parking.

Mainstreet Tauranga manager Kirby Weis understood the meeting would be about how to better manage parking in the CBD, including the possibility of lifting time restrictions in areas outside the core retail zone.

The report to Monday's workshop would be based on a comprehensive parking survey carried out earlier this year.

Mr Weis was not expecting the outcome to be permanent free parking in the CBD - parking was currently free in weekends although time restrictions remained in force.

One of the issues he expected to be raised was the CBD's different time zones, such as the P60 and P120 areas.

The council would be looking at these zones and what could be done in conjunction with retailers.

''We support getting the parking asset running as smoothly as possible.''

His understanding from previous workshops involving retailers was that parking had to pay for itself and the council did not want to introduce free parking if it meant the activity would be subsidised by the city's ratepayers.

Mr Weis was wary of putting the costs associated with free parking directly onto Mainstreet members.

''We would have to look at that in more detail. In this economic climate, I am not sure if the Mainstreet board would be comfortable putting that added rate burden on to its members. I don't think the workshop is about free parking.''

Bill Campbell, the owner of gift and souvenir shop Fancy That, said there were not many options left to improve the situation in the CBD, but free parking was one of them.

Mr Campbell, who resigned from the Mainstreet board 18 months ago, said there needed to be parity in parking between the CBD and the rest of the city's shopping centres where parking was free.

''The ideal solution was free parking - that would be my absolute dream.''

Mr Campbell was not calling for the lifting of time restrictions as well, although they could be relaxed so that shoppers were not having to worry about parking wardens so much.

''The longer they stay, the more they will spend.''

Even the practice of parking wardens issuing tickets for expired warrants of fitness and registrations scared some people into shopping centres where parking was on privately-owned land, he said.

Mr Campbell said that one of the biggest arguments against free parking was that downtown workers would take up the carparks and shift their vehicles during the day to avoid getting a ticket for exceeding time restrictions.

However, he argued that office workers were important because they supported retailers all year round and good bosses who saw staff shifting their cars should give them a stir-up.

''I haven't heard of it being an issue at the Mount or Greerton,'' Mr Campbell said.

''It is tough out there. We need initiatives. We can't just sit back and take it any more.''

- Bay of Plenty Times

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