Patients' parking headaches

By Kristin Edge

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A central city medical centre is petitioning Whangarei District Council for some short-term parking spaces outside their clinic for patients struggling to find a park.

Staff at the Te Aroha Noa Medical Centre say a change in parking times, for the carpark behind the old Town Hall, from three hours to all day parking has compromised patients' ability to access services.

More than 150 people have signed the petition that is calling for the council to implement a few time monitored parking spots. The council is considering raising the current 60c an hour all day parking rate to $1 per hour all day in the hope it will free up spaces.

But practise manager Annie Hemsley said that would be a double whammy for patients coming to the centre.

"We have a lot of elderly and young families who come here and they are having to park away from here and have to walk. Usually, they are very sick and don't need the extra stress."

Mrs Hemsley said the problem came to light through a regular survey done by the clinic, with most patients commenting on how difficult it was to find a park.

Currently there is a space for an ambulance, in which no one can park, and a disabled car space.

Doctor David Atkinson said he saw a number of elderly patients who had trouble walking. He said the council idea to raise the hourly rate was a purely speculative solution to the parking issue and was not guaranteed to change parking behaviour.

Whangarei District Council roading manager Jeff Devine said the council was considering raising the hourly rate in the carpark behind the old Town Hall to encourage more of a turn over. He said car parks could be leased but that was only in carparks that had low occupancy rates.

A recent survey showed the carpark used by patients trying to attend the medical centre had a 100 per cent occupancy rate in the morning and in the afternoon that dropped to 90 per cent.

If the new hourly rate was implemented the situation would be continue to be monitored, he said.

The change from three hours to all day parking was part of a council change in parking around Whangarei city which was implemented last August.

Charging at the Town Basin was part of the council's new central city parking strategy.

The changes included increasing parking time limits in the central city to three hours, introducing a weekday daily charge of $2 at the Town Basin's three commuter carparks and removing time restrictions at all pay and display carparks.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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