Federated Farmers urged Hastings to learn from Hutt City Council's mistakes when it comes to free parking in the central city, arguing there is no such thing as a free lunch.

In our submission to the Hastings Annual Plan, Federated Farmers advocated for parking in Hastings to remain user-pays rather than being funded by rates.

Pay for parking through rates is inequitable because out-of-towners, tourists and those Hastings citizens who are not ratepayers would not be contributing, despite using the service.

Rural ratepayers may come to Hastings city only infrequently, or only visit premises that have their own parking available on-site, using less than the $11 they are asked to pay yearly.

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Rural ratepayers in northern Hastings District will be more likely to visit Napier as their nearest town, however they will be asked to pay for a parking service in a town they do not visit.

We especially oppose any proposal to fund parking via the general rate according to land or capital value, as this would mean that some ratepayers will pay much more than others depending on their property value, regardless of actual parking use.

There is little evidence that free parking will boost spending at independent retailers as claimed, which was discovered by Lower Hutt's city council in 2016.

Despite a trial of a 'first-hour free' parking scheme, expenditure with retailers in the Hutt central city grew at a significantly lower rate than all its regional competitors during the trial period, as measured by data from credit card and eftpos sales.

Hutt City Council attempted to recover some of the estimated $925,000 lost revenue costs from parking meters by increasing parking fees for other areas of the city, and had considered a rate on commercial businesses and residential ratepayers.

Car parkers ended up moving away from a council carpark where the fee was increased to Queensgate Mall's free parking, straight into the arms of the mega-retailer.

Federated Farmers considers that it is not a council's role to get involved in business competition in any case.

Rhea Dasent is a senior policy adviser for Federated Farmers.

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