Traffic pandemonium in downtown Mount Maunganui last weekend has become the last straw for a groundswell of retailers opposed to losing Phoenix Carpark.
"We need to fight to keep the carpark," Mount Mainstreet chairwoman Jane Debenham told the Bay of Plenty Times. She had "major concerns" after witnessing the impact of major events like the Port of Tauranga Half on parking in the shopping centre.
The council decided last year to convert the 55-space carpark into a chill-out zone for shoppers, and was currently consulting on the design. It would also be considering a big-picture plan later this year to alleviate summertime parking woes at the northern end of Mount Maunganui.
Mrs Debenham said she had spoken to several Mainstreet board members who shared her concerns. "Last weekend brought things to a head."
She agreed it would be a "bit of a turnaround" if the board reversed its previous support for turning the carpark into a passive area. While the design looked lovely, the reality was that if the Mount was going to keep its big events it needed to retain infrastructure such as the Phoenix Carpark.
Mrs Debenham said the carpark was pivotal for businesses during summer.
Mayor Stuart Crosby said although the council could revisit its decision on Phoenix Carpark, he suggested it would be "highly unlikely".
"It is not just about Mainstreet. They are important stakeholders but not the only stakeholders."
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Mr Crosby said the transfer of the carpark into a reserve and its development into an open space was being funded from the $5 million development contributions collected from the Mount.
He said Phoenix Carpark was under-utilised for most of the year and the plan was to provide more carparks than the 55 that would be lost.
Council transportation manager Martin Parkes said the council would carry out targeted consultation on the proposal to create additional carparks in Nikau Cres, Prince Ave, Oceanview Rd and the May St carpark. Nikau Cres would become a one-way street.
The preferred option was for the other 39 carparks in the May St carpark to become three-hour parking instead of the current free, all-day parking, he said.
A decision on the new carparks would be done in parallel with the study covering the whole of Mount north above Rata St.
Mr Parkes said the study would look at the way parking was managed, particularly December and January when parking was at a premium. The plan would go out for public consultation, with a decision expected about Easter.
Mount menswear retailer Charlie Robertson said they needed to keep Phoenix Carpark to cope with the growing pressure on parking. "Families nowadays have a couple of cars in the stable."
He said the Mount should not be cheated out of more carparks just because the council was hellbent on spending its development levies.
Barney Tizzard of The Shoebox highlighted how public consultation in 2014 to redevelop Phoenix Carpark had seen 95 of the 178 submitters oppose losing the carpark, 62 were in favour and 21 neither for nor against.
"It seems crazy to take away a carpark to create more open space."
Proposal to replace 55 spaces lost in Phoenix Carpark:
* 28 new carparks in Nikau Cres
* 18 new carparks in Prince Ave
* 12 new carparks in Oceanview Rd
* 12 new carparks in May St carpark