Push for city parking parity

By Ben Guild, Sonya Bateson

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Don Stewart Jewellers co-owner Neville Stewart says parking in Tauranga would be fairer if other shopping centres also had parking charges. Photo / John Borren
Don Stewart Jewellers co-owner Neville Stewart says parking in Tauranga would be fairer if other shopping centres also had parking charges. Photo / John Borren

Tauranga CBD retailers doubt whether reducing parking fees to their pre-July rates will have any effect.

As reported in the Bay of Plenty Times, the Tauranga City Council reduced parking fees back to $2 on Monday after hiking it to $3 on July 1.

Neville Stewart, co-owner of Don Stewart Jewellers, said the reduced fee was a step in the right direction but there needed to be more parity with other centres.

"I think free parking is not totally realistic but if there is a parking charge in the central business district it should be taken to other retail and commercial areas. If we pay here, we should pay in the Mount, Greerton and other areas."

Mr Stewart said most people accepted parking charges were necessary but it was unfair that the central business district was penalised for parking while similar areas did not have that to contend with.

Free CBD parking advocate, Fancy That owner Bill Campbell, called the changes "smoke and mirrors".

"We are very disappointed this is the best they can do.

"We have to compete with Bayfair and other areas who offer free parking."

Mr Campbell said he had asked a councillor a few months ago why they could not charge for parking in Mount Maunganui to even things up, and the councillor said that would drive shoppers to Bayfair.

"It's all political and that's what's making it difficult. We the retailers are competing for that dollar which the council wants as well."

Rialto Tauranga manager Clayton Morgan doubted whether the change to the hourly parking rate would have any effect on patronage of the CBD.

The change allowing shoppers to park for as long as they wanted had made it easier for movie-goers who typically spent more than two hours in town, Mr Morgan said.

He did not get many complaints about parking, but said he often had to inform people that paid parking hours finished on weekdays at 4pm.

Molloy's Menswear owner Jason Dovey doubted whether the changes would have any impact on the business district.

That horse had already bolted, he said.

"The damage has been done - the more satellite shopping centres that are built the more it will thin out downtown," Mr Dovey said.

He believed the decision to remove free parking on Saturdays had done irreparable damage in the court of public opinion.

"I wished they had just left it how it was and continued to monitor it. At least that way people wouldn't think twice about popping in and doing their business."

He said his shop was a destination store that did not count on foot traffic.

Tuskany Mainstreet Tauranga spokesperson Sally Cooke said they were delighted they were able to work together with the council around parking issues.

"I've always been a firm believer that parking is just one factor to why people come to Downtown Tauranga. Certainly the council's change to charges is great and helpful, anything that assists our members is helpful."

Tauranga City Council transportation manager Martin Parkes said in lowering the price, the council took on board the feedback from retailers, shoppers and businesses which was primarily concern about the price of the $3 parking zone.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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