Mayor's parking fee rise push alarms city business group

By Mathew Dearnaley

Auckland Mayor Len Brown. Photo / Greg Bowker
Auckland Mayor Len Brown. Photo / Greg Bowker

Auckland Mayor Len Brown supports a $1 hourly fee rise for central city parking, which he wants his council's transport arm to line up against a region-wide parking strategy.

He has alarmed the Heart of the City business association by saying he supports in principle an increase proposed by Auckland Transport, and has referred the matter to the council's infrastructure committee, which meets today.

"I am asking that Auckland Transport present a much fuller report on proposed fee changes, alignment with the [region-wide] parking strategy, and a communications plan to the infrastructure committee before any changes are implemented," he said in a budget paper to the council last month.

A $1 rise would increase street parking in inner Auckland to $5 for each of the first two hours, and to $9 for each subsequent hour. Two other downtown zones, in which parking is now $3 and $2 an hour respectively, could also be hit by the $1 rise.

Fees in three council-owned parking buildings would rise to $4 an hour, although transport officials decided against pushing for a $2 increase which they initially considered for "early-bird" parking which now costs $13 a day.

Auckland Transport included the plan in a budget request to the council, aimed at raising $5.5 million against a $15.6 million shortfall for its operations funding, although parking enforcement manager Trevor Starr is now indicating a potential backdown. The request followed lower than expected revenue from car parking and public transport patronage, but is muddying the waters of a wider regional parking management strategy on which the council body is seeking public submissions through this month.

The proposed fee rise was not mentioned specifically last week by transport officials briefing reporters on the wider exercise. But parking design and policy manager Scott Ebbett indicated that busy parts of the inner city such as High St, where car spaces are occupied more than 90 per cent of the time during peak hours, may be in for an increase soon. Conversely, it could become cheaper to park in less popular spots such as Union St and parts of Wynyard Quarter with occupancy rates below 70 per cent.

That is under a formula adopted by AT in 2012, when introducing a new inner city scheme which removed time limits on street parking, in favour of doubling fees after the first two hours.

Heart of the City spokesman Greg McKeown says his organisation's strong support of the scheme was conditional on making parking fees responsive to supply and demand, as embodied in the 70-90 formula expounded by Mr Ebbett. A blanket increase would contradict that principle, jeopardising the business group's support.

Although there are no parking reports on the agenda today, Mr McKeown has leave to present his concerns after the mayor refused him speaking rights at last month's main budget-setting session.

Committee chairman Mike Lee indicated he would be receptive to Heart of the City's concerns, saying he intended "supporting an integrated approach to parking management, not a revenue grab or punitive charges".

"Nor do we want to push inner city shoppers out to the free parking in the shopping malls.

Parking fees

Inner zone
- $4 for each of two hours, then $8 an hour.
Middle zone
- $3 for each of two hours, then $6
Outer zone
- $2 an hour (no doubling after two hours)
Parking buildings
- $3 an hour to daily maximum of $17 (except for $13 for "early-bird" commuters who arrive before 8.30am)
Proposed increase
- $1 an hour

- NZ Herald

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