'Cash cow' council reaps $1.9m in parking fines

By Carmen Hall

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Bill Campbell says paid parking has killed central city foot traffic.
Bill Campbell says paid parking has killed central city foot traffic.

The city council has collected more than $1.9 million from motorists over the past year - sparking claims the central city is being used as a "cash cow" and calls for a targeted rate to replace parking fees.

New figures released to the Bay of Plenty Times show revenue was up $500,000 in the last financial year compared with the $1.4 million gathered the previous year.

The figures included a breakdown of how many were issued and where.

The revenue included tickets for expired vehicle registrations but those numbers had dropped from 8121 in 2012-13 to 6697 in the last financial year.

People had three months to pay fines before they were referred to court for collection. Last year, 5758 went through the process and council was owed $1.7 million in outstanding fines - with some dating back 10 years. Central city free parking advocate Bill Campbell said the area could no longer afford to be the city council transport division's "cash cow".

Paid parking had killed city foot traffic, he said.

But Mr Campbell believed the council would not give up that money without a fight and he was trying to rally support for a targeted parking rate.

Under the proposal, every business with access to on-street parking would pay the rate to allow free central city parking.

"I assume people in the industrial areas will jump up and down but they could recover their rate charge by using downtown more often."

Mr Campbell had canvassed about 30 businesses and people that favoured the concept but admitted he needed to gauge reaction further afield.

"They think it's a logical solution."

Status Clothing owner Keith Livingstone said he believed parking wardens needed to show more compassion.

"It's not all about increasing revenue."

Mayor Stuart Crosby said the targeted rate was an option along with monitored free parking.

"Financial models are being updated as we speak along with an element of free parking and whether that is two to three hours is yet to be decided."

But Mainstreet Tauranga spokeswoman Sally Cooke said a targeted rate could have a big impact on businesses.

"Anything that adds significant cost would have to be approached very carefully. This is just the view expressed by one member and there is no indication that members support this platform."

Mainstreet had been working with the council on a free parking initiative for months but it wasn't the "be all and end all". "Mainstreet has always agreed a free parking model of some description could be a good contributor but we need a range of initiatives to get people into the city."

A survey had asked members what was the single most important factor to growing their business in the city centre over the next 12 months.

"The most common themes were more people, attracting more business and free parking."

City parking team leader Kevin Nally said parking revenue was used for debt repayment and parking management, including enforcement, administration, infrastructure and parking buildings.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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