Paid parking will replace free parking at Whangarei's Town Basin, with the new regime policed seven days a week from 8am to 6pm.
But the Whangarei District Council will review the parking system three months after it is implemented to see if it achieving the council's aims to free up parking spaces at the Town Basin and if any changes need to be made.
The council yesterday voted to introduce paid parking and time limits for the popular spot.
At an extraordinary meeting the council voted to introduce pay-and-display metered parking at $2 an hour, for a maximum of three hours. There will be 16 carparks near the playground on the northern side of Reyburn House Lane free for an hour.
The new system, which will be put in place over the next three months, is planned to run from 8am to 6pm seven days a week, but that time-frame could change between now and when the pay system is introduced. It does not cover the carpark near the Canopy Bridge that costs $2 for the day. That carpark will eventually disappear under a public park, planned for when the Hundertwasser Arts Centre is up and running.
Mayor Sheryl Mai and councillors Phil Halse, Cherry Hermon, Greg Martin, Tricia Cutforth, Greg Innes and Sharon Morgan voted to introduce the fees, while councillors Stu Bell, Vince Cocurullo, Crichton Christie and Jayne Golightly voted against. Councillors Anna Murphy and Sue Glenn were absent from the meeting.
The move has not been welcomed by visitors and business owners approached by the Northern Advocate at the Town Basin yesterday.
The council introduced the charges to free up spaces at the Town Basin as it found some people were using the free carparks for hours on end and even the whole day, thereby not freeing up spaces for those that wanted to visit the Town Basin or shop there.
In September 2011 the council adopted its Parking Management Strategy, which set out that it would seek to manage the parking and occupancy rates through fees. If the occupancy rates of a parking area were greater than 90 per cent it would increase the fees to reduce the occupancy rates to achieve between 70 and 80 per cent occupancy, ensuring a carpark would be available when required by the customers.
During the recent parking strategy review it was reported that the occupancy rates for the Town Basin carpark were consistently over 90 per cent over the day, during the week of the survey period. A recommendation from the workshop was the introduction of parking charges at the Town Basin to manage the availability of parking.
Ms Mai said people were occupying the free spaces at the Town Basin for too long and introducing paid parking would ensure the spaces were free more often for those who wanted to use the area.
She understood that some people would be concerned about the parking plan, particularly those using the Loop Walkway. But, as a regular Loop user herself, she said there were other free parking areas around the Loop people could use and still use the popular walkway, such as Pohe Island, the Bascule Bridge Carpark and Port Rd.
Ms Mai said some business owners she had spoken to said introducing charges could affect their business, which was a concern, but she felt the charges would mean a higher turnover of parking spaces and therefore more people going to the Town Basin to use those businesses.
Council roading manager Jeff Devine said that previously when the council had introduced pay-and-display parking it had led to parking spaces freeing up more often, which is what the council wanted to happen at the Town Basin.
"It will be much harder for those people that want to stay there for the whole day," Mr Devine said.
Cr Golightly said she had received about 200 comments to her Facebook page with the vast majority opposed to the introduction of charges.
"I just don't think we are listening to our ratepayers on Town Basin parking," she said.
Cr Cocurullo felt the charges were merely revenue gathering and won't solve parking problems at the Town Basin. He said the move would leave businesses hurting.
Deputy Mayor Sharon Morgan said the $2-an-hour charge was a "very fair cost" compared to other towns and cities across the country.