Free parking in Hastings CBD could be a thing of the past with 80 per cent of ratepayers wanting to return to a user-pays system.
For the past eight months Hastings District Council has trialled free parking - losing $370,000 worth of revenue in the process - following a request from the city's business association, which saw it as a way to boost trade for retailers.
However while anecdotal evidence suggested people were happy with not having to feed the meter, 544 of the 680 tear-off responses to the council's annual plan consultation did not want to pay for parking through their rates. This result surprised Mayor Lawrence Yule, who said people had told him they had been enjoying the free parking.
"When I was first told of that [80 per cent figure] I asked the council team to initiate the council's Citizen Panel which came back with a very similar level - 68 per cent," he said.
"That is different to what I expected but that is what community consultation is all about."
However, Hastings City Business Association general manager Susan McDade was not surprised by the feedback. "People are much more likely to submit against something than they are in favour of it," she said.
The council's planning and regulatory group manager John O'Shaughnessy reports the total cost of the council's parking operations is $1.2 million a year.
He said council earned about $700,000 from parking enforcement, policing warrants and registrations along with some leased carpark revenue.
"That leaves a shortfall of $500,000 which, until November 2015, was earned from parking meters," he said in his report to council. "The question now is: Do residents want to keep the parking system the way it is now, or go back to using parking meters in Hastings?
"Overall, the community response shows a preference for a user-pays method of payment."
During the trial, Mr O'Shaughnessy said work was undertaken by Market View which supported the view that there was no clear benefit to retailers during the free parking trial, which was the very reason it was requested.
However, he said there was evidence from attitudinal surveys over the trial period that the parking trial had generated an improved sense of satisfaction and confidence from users.
Ms McDade disputed the figures that showed retailers were not better off thanks to free parking, saying that from the association's point of view the trial had "absolutely worked".
Mr Yule said councillors might make a decision on the matter this Friday. If paid parking is to return to the city, it will do so on July 1 of this year.