New push for free downtown parking

By John Cousins

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Free parking in Tauranga's downtown is supported by 95 per cent of business owners and managers, according to a survey conducted by retailer Bill Campbell.

Mr Campbell, who owns the gift and souvenir shop Fancy That, has been battling the council and Mainstreet Tauranga on the issue of free parking, saying it was needed to make the downtown more shopper friendly.

His survey was partially prompted by a discussion with city councillor Bill Grainger who challenged him to show the amount of support for free parking.


 


 


Mr Campbell drafted the questionnaire and this week sent two of his staff around 308 businesses between 1st Ave and McLean St, east of Cameron Rd.

Their canvassing resulted in 291 of the business owners and managers agreeing with the question posed by Mr Campbell.

He said the survey was in response to concerns regarding dwindling foot traffic in the CBD and the lack of interest by the council and Mainstreet in the idea of free monitored parking, with reasonable time limits.

The question was: "Do you believe free monitored parking with reasonable time limits will encourage more people to visit the CBD?"

Another shop counter survey was asking customers whether free monitored parking would encourage them to visit the CBD more often. That survey will run until the end of March.

Mr Campbell said he was over the moon with the outcome of the survey of business owners.

"It's not just me, it's most businesses in the CBD. Mainstreet and the council are out of tune with what businesses are wanting," he said.

The duration of the time limit on carparks would be up for debate.

Asked whether it was a loaded question that invited one response, he replied: "How else would you ask it? They had their chance to say no.

"Mainstreet members are disgruntled."

Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby said the response to the question was perfectly understandable.

However, it overlooked the fact that parking was not free because it had a cost. Several million dollars of debt needed to be funded, and not from general rates.

Mr Crosby said the survey would have been more balanced it if had added the question: "Are you prepared to make up the difference in your rates?"

Mainstreet Tauranga manager Kirby Weis agreed with the mayor, saying he doubted that the Mainstreet board would be willing to put the extra burden on to the targeted rate paid by its members, the downtown business owners - especially in the current economic climate.

"We know the [council's] parking account is not small change."

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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