Parking problems in Whangarei could be down to public perception, as opposed to an actual lack of spaces, with council data showing on-street city spaces are usually only about three-quarters full.
Whangarei District councillors met on Tuesday to face the fact the CBD will lose between 542 and 712 carparks in the future - up to 20 per cent of available spaces - if all its proposed projects go ahead.
After the meeting, Cr Phil Halse who chairs WDC's Inner City Revitalisation Committee, said there were two low-cost ideas that would help compensate for lost parks. His first idea was to move council staff parking on to the top level of the Central City Carpark, freeing up street-level parks. He would also like to see more one-way streets in the CBD, allowing more space for angle parking.
Councillors and staff acknowledged while parking was among ratepayers' biggest gripes, the average occupancy of CBD carparks was at 61 per cent Monday to Saturday, with on-street carparks at 73 per cent occupancy.
The impact on parking from proposed projects in the 20/20 Momentum Plan and the impact of previous carpark sales means 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 green space, meaning about $55,000 per year of lost revenue for WDC.
There are about 3500 parking spaces in and around the CBD. About two-thirds are pay-and-display with the remaining third free, with 520 time-restricted.
Cr 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 moved from Wellington in mid 2015 and said one of the biggest adjustments had been to Whangarei residents' "terms of reference" for what was acceptable with regards to parking.
Other options floated at the briefing included $1 per hour city-wide parking, live signage giving counts of where spaces were and buy an hour, get an hour free deals.