OFFERING free parking to shoppers in Whanganui may have been well intentioned but was a waste of effort.
That's the view of Whanganui District councillor Rob Vinsen - himself a Victoria Ave retailer - who said the free weekend parking trial was "sadly just a waste of well-intentioned effort".
The free time was promoted by councillor Helen Craig and Mainstreet Whanganui in a bid to attract shoppers to the inner city retail area.
Parking was free along a stretch of St Hill St and for limited times in the Avenue from mid-November through until early in the New Year. At the time Mrs Craig said the decision would help promote Whanganui as a "shopper friendly" destination.
Council's parking service team estimated waiving the charges in St Hill St would mean a drop in revenue of about $9500, as well as $5000 for extending the time limit in the Avenue.
But Mr Vinsen said the public didn't get the message that parking was free.
"We continually had people asking in our store what was going on with parking fees."
He said he had twice asked the parking supervisor to fix stickers on the meters with the words "free weekend parking" but nothing happened.
"Instead the meters continued to display '$2 per hour Mon - Sat' so the public were confused."
Mr Vinsen said no meaningful data was accessed by the trial. Instead all that occurred was a drop in parking income.
"I think that free two-hour parking in St Hill St is worthwhile and could become permanent. Hastings and Nelson have changed to first hour free after a six-month trial and I'm hoping the parking staff contact those councils and have a close look at their systems," he said.
Mr Vinsen said these latest changes had been tried before.
"After 43 years as a Victoria Ave retailer there's little that comes around that hasn't been tried before at some time. There are few of us still trading now who were in business 20 years ago when free weekend parking was available," he said.
He said for 20 years Mainstreet appealed to the council to extend the parking regime to include Saturdays because surveys at the time showed parking was being compromised, and often by employees working in Avenue stores.
"While cost is an issue for shoppers, it's availability that's even more important. Unfortunately, no one seems to have produced accurate statistics on the availability of Victoria Ave parking spaces on Saturdays. Parking income is not that great outside the Avenue and availability is plentiful."
He believed that at least 10 per cent of the parking spaces should always be available to drivers looking for a park in the Avenue. Less than that means there will be frustrated drivers and he said that meant frustrated shoppers "and that's what really affects our businesses".
"Parking regulation is a balance between desirability and affordability for council. The $600,000 income each year from parking is important to the ratepayer."
Mr Vinsen said council should consider offering the first hour's parking free as Nelson and Hastings had done.