Editorial: Free parks a must for city shops

By Michele Hunter


As a shopper, I was disappointed at the council's decision to remove free parking on Saturdays.I have to wonder if the issue of parking burns as strongly in other New Zealand cities as it does in Tauranga.

It seems to be hailed as the answer to downtown retailers' trading woes and the bane of every shoppers' visit to the CBD.

I have to admit that, as a shopper, I was disappointed at council's decision to remove free parking on Saturdays.

It's great that I can now park for as long as I can afford to feed the meter, but I'd prefer the convenience of being able to pull into a park and hot foot it to my weekend destination - without having to dig for loose change.

One of the last times I shopped in town, I parked in Grey St and set out to buy a pair of slippers.

I chose a cut price option and felt chuffed with my $8 bargain. Until I got back to my car and realised I'd been slapped with a $40 parking ticket.

The slippers had now cost me $48 and left me with a sour taste in my mouth.

While I accept I should have fed the meter, the experience left me wondering why I hadn't gone to The Warehouse or Bayfair where I could have browsed the options without the threat of a ticket that cost me five times more than my purchase.

Which is why I support retailer Bill Campbell's campaign for the first two or three hours of parking in the CBD to be free - and am happy to pay higher rates for the privilege.

At least that way I won't have to worry about an unexpected surprise on my windscreen, or constantly give in to the convenience of malls and shopping centres where hundreds of free parks beckon.

I don't expect a parking free-for-all in the city, where shoppers can sit outside their favourite store for hours on end - that would be detrimental to both the business owners and the other shoppers hoping to pay them a visit.

But something needs to be done to ensure the cost of parking doesn't continue to put central city retailers, many of which are providing something local and different, on the back foot.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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