CBD parking issues take centre stage

By Alexandra Newlove

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The contentious issue of parking in Whangarei, including in the CBD, above, is up for debate today. Photo / Mike Dinsdale
The contentious issue of parking in Whangarei, including in the CBD, above, is up for debate today. Photo / Mike Dinsdale

Whangarei councillors will today get into the nitty gritty of one the city's most complained-about issues - parking.

Proposed projects could see Whangarei CBD lose between 542 and 712 carparks in the future - up to 20 per cent of available spaces - and Whangarei District Councillors will need to look at how these can compensated for.

Today, staff will brief councillors as part of the Parking Strategy Review, including the public perception of the issue and what other councils are doing.

The impact on parking from proposed projects in the 20/20 Momentum Plan and the impact of previous carpark sales mean a potential loss of the 542 to 712 carparks in the CBD area and potential annual revenue loss of $326,000 to $545,000.

Among them was the "park to park" project, which would convert 229 carparks near Canopy Bridge into a green space, meaning about $55,000 per year of lost revenue for WDC.

If Laurie Hall Park was extended as proposed, up to 80 carparks could be done away with with lost revenue of $100,000 per annum. WDC had also allowed for a private developer to build a parking building at the corner of Hatea Dr and Dent St, expected to cost $45,000 in lost revenue.

There are about 3500 parking spaces in and around the CBD. About two-thirds are pay and display with the remaining one third free with 520 time restricted.

WDC 20/20 inner city revitalisation committee chairman Phil Halse said WDC would be looking for ways to offset the lost spaces. "For example, a lot of those internal streets could be one-way streets with angle parking. It's about thinking smart and looking to reduce the cost to our ratepayers."

Mr Halse said it cost $15,000 to $20,000 to create each new carpark and WDC would be looking towards privately run carparks where possible.

Five hundred residents were surveyed during January and early February, as part of the review, with 68 per cent saying they visited the CBD at least occasionally, compared to 85 per cent who went to Okara Park. A CBD "with a great look and feel" was considered the most important asset, followed by the availability of parking. Good value parking was ranked as fifth most important.

WDC chief executive Rob Forlong said parking, particularly in the CBD, was one of the public's biggest gripes. Coming from Wellington, Mr Forlong said one of the biggest adjustments had been to Whangarei residents' "terms of reference" for what was acceptable with regards to price and convenience.

The Parking Strategy Review briefing is open to the public today, from 9am at Forum North.

- Northern Advocate

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