Whangārei commuters will be changing their morning routines now the about 220-park Canopy Bridge carpark is closed.
The site, which was closed by the Whangārei District Council (WDC) on Monday, will make way for a $6.6 million recreational park, which will include lawns, new footpaths, a plaza, a new toilet block and shade sale, balance park, amphitheatre and new wharf.
The park is expected to be completed by December next year. No extra carparks will be constructed as a part of the project.
To mitigate the closing of the carpark, WDC has permanently reduced the cost of the 74-space Carruth St carpark from $2 an hour to $2 a day.
Steve Haywood, owner of the Town Basin's Steve Haywood Master Jeweller, believed losing the Canopy Bridge carpark would have a negative impact on business, but he wasn't too concerned at this stage.
"Workers in town are my customers and if they have a place to easily park all day long, they are more likely to spend money in town," he said.
Haywood's biggest concern was for staff of surrounding businesses and where they would park. However, Haywood emphasised his support for the new park and the Hundertwasser Art Centre, calling himself a "firm believer" in the projects.
Local arts personality Kara Dodson, who also worked at the jewellers, said she was forced to park in the Town Basin carpark on Tuesday, which was $2 per hour, to avoid being late because both carparks along Hātea Drive were full.
She believed parking in town should be free for the first hour, which would encourage more people to make short trips to shop.
"There's no incentive to shop local for the small businesses around here," she said.
The Boatshed and NZ Fudge Farm owner Grant Snelgar said the closure would likely have an impact on staff of surrounding businesses more than foot traffic at the Town Basin.
However, Snelgar believed parking in the CBD was getting full and said multi-level parking buildings should be considered as a solution.
Snelgar, also a believer in the new park and the art centre to boost foot traffic at the Town Basin, said the council needed to consider whether the current number of parks would be able to satisfy the increased demand once both projects were completed.
The Bach, Basin Arts and Crafts House employee Naomi Horne wasn't sure whether the carpark closure would have an impact on the store's business, but she believed the development at the Basin would be beneficial.
"All this is [from] Northland artists so if you're an out-of-town visitor then this is the kind of thing you're going to want to get as a memory."
WDC chief executive Rob Forlong said council had planned for the loss of the carpark for about two years through the lease of the Carruth St carpark and the purchase of the old Neil Group site between James and John St, two areas which totalled just over 200 carparks combined.
Forlong, who noted the number of carparks in Whangārei's CBD compared favourably to other cities such as Napier, Palmerston North and Dunedin, said the carpark's closure would mean a worthwhile change to people's daily routine.
"They'll have to change their habits, definitely and that's just a fact of life," he said.
"Would you rather have a great community asset there or a carpark? I think most people would probably prefer the park. We'll certainly get a lot more use out of it with the Hundertwasser [Art Centre] there."
In 2016, there were just under 3600 car parks in and around the Whangārei central business district (CBD), similar to the figure in 2006.
Forlong believed the Hātea Drive East carpark, the site closest to the river which was he said was rarely full, would increase in occupancy as displaced commuters looked for an alternative.
In a recent council survey of carpark occupancy at 10am, 12pm and 3pm in a five-day working week, an average of 75 per cent of carparks were occupied.
Forlong was confident the carpark closure wouldn't have a negative impact on nearby businesses and in fact, predicted a positive surge in business when the park was completed.
However, Forlong said a survey would be done on CBD parking in March next year and additional measures, such as raising parking costs to promote turnover, would be implemented if demand was too high.
It comes as nearly 200 carparks, among other features, will be added to the Cobham Oval carpark as part of a $1.29m project.
WDC confirmed earlier this month that local contractor, Clements, will complete the seven-month redevelopment project, which will include 184 marked carparks, rain gardens, a new entrance and vehicle charging stations.
The work, which began on October 12, would be done in two stages to ensure parking was available on one half of the area while work took place on the other.
While it would be an important addition for Northland cricket fans, the area would also be used as overflow parking for events at Semenoff Stadium. It will be available for general parking with no time restrictions when events are not being held.