Parking revenues drop in city

By Carmen Hall

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Tauranga City Council has collected $1.29 million off motorists parking in the city over the past year.

New figures obtained by the Bay of Plenty Times reveal pay and display revenue was down slightly from $1.37 million in 2011/12 but The Strand has 50 per cent less parking available since the waterfront redevelopment. Parking revenue in that area has fallen from $115,634 to $53,136.

The decision to remove the parks angered the CBD's strongest advocate for free parking, retailer Bill Campbell, who said it had hit businesses hard.

"I think that is one of the big reasons the revenue for council has dropped. Since those carparks have been taken away it's hurt us personally and I think it will be the final nail in the coffin," Mr Campbell said.

At least five customers a day had complained to him about having to pay $3 to park in the central city for one hour, he said.

Tauranga Chamber of Commerce CEO Max Mason said some businesses blamed parking charges for a drop in business.

The council's view was that it would not remove parking charges due to historical financial obligations. he said.

"Whatever the causes we all need to work hard ... to increase foot traffic and there are lots of positive developments planned. But that doesn't help those retailers who are struggling today and if we can support them, we should," Mr Mason said.

Tauranga City Council transportation manager Martin Parkes said revenue from pay and display meters was used to pay for administering parking.

A reintroduction of parking fees on Saturdays from 9am to 1pm that starts this weekend has also angered motorists.

However, Mr Parkes said monitoring had shown there was no discernible change in the number of visitors to the city on Saturday after parking charges were removed two years ago.

"Saturday is the busiest shopping day and because time limits in the city centre have been removed there needs to be some mechanism for controlling parking otherwise people will park all day in the same place and no one else would be able to find a park," he said.

Paid parking had increased in Mount Maunganui up from $17,656 to $19,787 but demand was seasonal, Mr Parkes said.

"There is not a high demand for parking at the Mount because spaces are readily available in close proximity to main street where it's free of charge. So the bulk of that money is taken over the summer period when its a high demand for parking from mid-November through to mid-February."

Mount Mainstreet Manager Leanne Brown said the carpark was being used and that was indicative of more people going to the Mount.

"While we appreciate we don't have parking meters in the Mount motorists are still faced with parking tickets for exceeding time limits and other infringements."

But free parking was only one element of Mount Maunganui's success, she said.

"I am reluctant to get into the debate over whether free parking is the answer to issues in other areas of the city. However, we will continue to focus on giving people a reason to come to come here by trying to create some vibrancy ... give people a reason to come and they will."

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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