Tauranga's CBD is underperforming as a shopping destination according to a new piece of analysis, and a retailers' representative points to parking as the main problem.
Tauranga Mainstreet chairman Brian Berry said increasing difficulty accessing the CBD was restricting retailers' ability to attract customers and make sales.
"People are giving up and going elsewhere," he told a Tauranga City Council committee meeting on Tuesday.
"It's been getting worse in recent months due to a loss of car parks due to developments."
Retailers were "hurting pretty bad" and accounting firms had reported clients cancelling appointments because they could not find parking.
He wanted CBD workers to be discouraged from parking in the city all day, suggesting the council could limit CBD parking to three hours.
Julie Hammon of Hammon Diamond Jewellers said business was brisk but she worried about the future as construction picked up.
Rejuvenating the CBD was "fantastic" but she wished more thought had been given to keeping the shopping district accessible during the transition.
"The lack of parking is definitely a frustration for a lot of my customers."
Hammon, a Mainstreet Tauranga board member, wanted to see innovative solutions - maybe park-and-rides or public transport incentives.
She believed the CBD was suffering from the short sightedness of past councils "hell bent on driving cars out of the city".
Pamela Wilson of Maggie J Shoes said customers complained about parking being hard to find.
In its annual report, the council noted increasing demand for city centre parking. More construction sites in the city centre were "exacerbating the problem".
Parking was at 84 per cent peak occupancy for on-street parks, 83 to 99 per cent for off-street and 90 to 100 per cent for parking buildings in the past financial year. A rate of 85 per cent was considered ideal.
The council's transport manager Martin Parkes said there were 2750 paid parking spaces in the city centre.
Fifty short-term parks were temporarily blocked behind the library. This time next year, those would be back and 90 all-day parks would be closed at Harrington St for the construction of a new parking building.
He said the council wanted to make it more attractive and easy for people working in the city to bike and bus in, so car parks were freed up for people who lived further out.
"If we insist on viewing a car park as the primary unit of value we will miss an opportunity to create a more accessible, more vibrant city."
Val Auld, Cabbages and Kings owner, said people needed to be patient.
"It's all part of the pain of growing."
Street view: What do you think about parking in the CBD and how does it impact your decisions to visit?
"It's stressful. It's hard to find a park and then when you do find a park, you've got to pay lots of money."
Hunter Lewis, Brookfield
"There's not much they can do about it I guess, but it seriously puts me off coming into town."
Georgia Miller, Papamoa
"I think we need more multi-level parking buildings. I can either walk or drive, but when it rains, I drive and I have to roam around the city looking for a park."
Ashish Bhati, CBD
"I find it tough because I live rural in Welcome Bay and my only form of transport to come in is a car. I would like to know why I am paying for public transport in my rates when they are not providing the service."
Joy White, Welcome Bay
"It's pretty difficult, I went round three times today trying to find a place."
Henry Walker, Mount Maunganui
CBD "underperforming" - analysts
A big picture analysis of Tauranga's retail centres found the largest - the CBD - was "underperforming".
Tauranga City Council commissioned Melbourne-based firm SGS Economics and Planning to examine the city's retail centres to inform work on its Tauranga Urban Strategy.
Analysts found when it came to which centres were getting people to open their wallets, some were doing better than others.
They assessed productivity by measuring turnover (from credit card spend data) against retail floor space.
They found the CBD had 22 per cent of Tauranga's retail floor space but 13 per cent of retail expenditure.
Its productivity was $2000 to $4000 per square metre, compared with $6000-plus in over performing centres Bethlehem and Mount Maunganui. Greerton, Fraser Cove and Chapel St were also underperforming.
The lack of a CBD supermarket, traffic congestion and "an underperforming retail sector" were among factors mentioned.
Councillor Max Mason said the report reinforced how big and important the CBD was to the city and said the council needed to focus on "place making".
- $1 in every $5 retail dollars spent in Tauranga are spent in the CBD and Cameron Rd.
- 272 stores in CBD, 12.6 per cent of total in Tauranga
- Total CBD floor space 103,200sqm
- CBD had more diverse retail mix than elsewhere
- Productivity in CBD $2000-$4000 per square metre of floor space
Source: Tauranga Urban Centres Technical Assessment, SGS Economics and Planning