Matthew Martin is a senior reporter at the Rotorua Daily Post

Feedback on free parking wanted

Rotorua's council wants to hear what residents think about the 12-day free parking trial during Christmas with an eye on changing inner city parking arrangements.

Rotorua retailers are for bringing back free parking but mayoral candidate Steve Chadwick said the idea was nothing more than an "election year sweetener" and a knee-jerk reaction to a central business district empty of shoppers and shops.

The Rotorua District Council is asking residents to fill in a quick online survey to gather feedback on last year's successful free parking promotion.

The council's economic projects manager, Nick Dallimore, said the council provided two-hour free parking in the 12 days leading up to last Christmas as a response to city retailers and other businesses who said they were struggling to get enough customers.

"It was an opportunity to show that the council was prepared to listen to the business community and ready to respond to changing patterns in retailing, as well as to acknowledge the challenging economic climate businesses and consumers have been experiencing," Mr Dallimore said.

The council is taking a longer-term look at on-street parking arrangements for Rotorua.

"From this investigation we will be preparing a report and recommendations for the mayor and councillors to consider as part of the process for developing the council's annual plan and budgets for the 2013/14 year."

Mr Dallimore said businesses had already been surveyed and now they wanted public feedback.

McLeod's Booksellers manager Fraser Newman said the pre-Christmas free parking trial was an epic success.

"The next step forward is to investigate options for free parking all the time - this would keep the CBD competitive with other shopping locations," Mr Newman said.

"We think it is possible with the use of modern technology and graded time limits to run an efficient, cost effective parking system that provides value for the council, shoppers and retailers.

"The council could still collect revenue from fines, but for one to two hours shoppers could shop in peace," he said.

However, Mrs Chadwick said extending free parking was just "an election year sweetener".

"While this is a small part of the need to energise the CBD has he [the mayor] really put as much thought into this as he did with the idea of a pond on the Village Green at the last election?

"When will we see sustainable inner city urban design as the key for getting the central city going and at the same time allowing concrete satellite shopping precincts to develop in the suburbs - this is what is killing the central city," she said.

"So soon we will be able to clutter the city with cars without real long-term consideration of its future use. Is this really the best vision he can come up with after all this time leading the city?"

Mr Winters said if Mrs Chadwick didn't think listening and responding to residents and the business community were important "then that's her call".

"My view is that the future of our CBD and economic growth are far too important than to be dragged down by petty politicking.

"So our council is continuing to focus on working closely with Rotorua people to build the sort of district we all aspire to," he said.

To complete the survey visit and click on the CBD Parking Survey in the "Have Your Say" box on the home page. The survey finishes this Sunday, March 3.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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