CBD parking limits could go

By John Cousins

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One of the biggest headaches for shoppers in Tauranga's downtown, the one hour and two-hour limits on carparking, are likely to be axed by the council.

But despite calls from some retailers to put the CBD onto an equal footing with the city's other shopping centres, the proposed changes to on-street parking stopped short of free parking.

Instead, the council's transportation operations manager Martin Parkes has suggested dropping the P60 and P120 restrictions in the downtown's outer core.

The P15 and P30 restrictions would remain on the high demand car parks in the retail heart - Devonport Rd, Grey St and parts of Spring St and Elizabeth St.<inline type="poll" id="6417" align="outside"/>

It meant shoppers could have the option from July 1, 2013, of suiting themselves about how long they wanted to park on streets a few minutes walk from their shopping destination. Instead of being forced to return to their cars before the one hour or two hour limits expired, they fed the meter for the length of time they wanted to stay.

Mr Parkes estimated the changes would boost parking revenue by about $300,000 a year.

The report to yesterday's council workshop also recommended reverting to charging for on-street parking on Saturdays after three surveys revealed that free parking had made little difference to the occupancy of carparks.

Mr Parkes said it would remove confusion because people assumed that free parking also meant no time limits until they were issued with a parking ticket. Reinstating the charges on Saturday would bring in about $132,000 a year.

The other major recommendation in his report was to ring-fence a percentage of the surplus in the parking account and use the money to improve the downtown, like streetscape upgrades. The surplus was currently used to reduce debt, with $5 million of loans left on the two parking buildings.

Councillors were cautious about this, with Larry Baldock opposing the ring fencing until the loans on the parking buildings had been repaid.

Bill Campbell, the owner of gift and souvenir shop Fancy That, said the cost of parking in the CBD was a major reason why people were supporting suburban shopping centres.

"The CBD can no longer be the council's cash cow ... any money received from rego and warrant infringements should go towards a city centre tidy up."

Mr Campbell said businesses in the CBD were struggling to survive, as seen by the number of empty offices and shops. "A number of existing businesses are not going to renew their leases when they expire shortly."

Councillor Catherine Stewart asked how there could be a cost to park a car in Willow St but no cost in Koromiko St - a street in the Judea industrial area.

Mr Parkes said the CBD was the centre of business and commerce for the region.

Councillor Bill Grainger said free parking should be trialled for 12 months but with the council continuing to police time limits.

Mayor Stuart Crosby said free parking was a decision for the council.

Consultation on the proposals will take place with key interest groups in November and December, with the council recommending a way forward early next year.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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