Where do we store those big lumps of metal in our city during the day? I'm talking about cars.
Essentially, every parked car is taking up space that could be used in many other ways: green spaces, cycleways, pedestrian corridors, art installations, play areas; the list goes on.
• Central Whangārei car park charges set to change
I, like most residents of Whangārei District, own a vehicle. The size and remote nature of our district makes the practicality of going vehicle-less very difficult, and as a result we end up with a collection of vehicles near to, or in, our city and urban centres.
What are some realistic solutions to our parking needs? In an area where some parks are full through the week but sit empty at weekends, and where land value is at a premium, should we be putting aside large tracts for car parks?
Council has recently announced the implementation of new parking zones across the city, reducing the 16 existing zones to three. This is happening at the end of February, giving us a simpler guide when it comes to choosing our parking spots.
Along with the new zones come a range of larger and more user-friendly signs - fantastic news for those of us who were struggling to read the original mPark zone numbering.
Of course, any movement around car parking brings into question our future plans, and the sustainability of parking in our city. As the population of our district grows, parking solutions need to be designed with the future in mind. We need to think smarter, plan for future use and be prepared to financially support a more robust and diverse infrastructure model.
In 2018 we won the title of "Most EV Friendly City in New Zealand". Ultimately, I would love to see our city become known as the "Most Pedestrian/Cyclist/Mobility Scooter-Friendly City in New Zealand".
We're on the right track (excuse the pun) already, with the recent announcement of a four-lane southbound highway including a separated shared cycling and walking path.
This decision acknowledges an immediate need for a safer and more effective arterial route, while also preparing us for a future where alternative and active transport will play a much larger role.
Those big lumps of metal in our cityscape today are costing more to run every day – and I'm not just talking about rising fuel prices. Carbon emissions are in the spotlight as we take a serious look at our Climate Change Emergency declaration, soon we'll be counting the true cost of owning a personal vehicle.
We're in the early stages of climate change adaptation, but with clear long-term strategies (including city centre planning, parking, vehicle use, and public transport options), we may even take out the title of "Most Climate Change-Savvy City in New Zealand". Wouldn't that be great?
In the meantime, Whangārei District Council is making sensible, sustainable inner-city parking decisions, designed with the future growth of our district in mind.
• Sheryl Mai is mayor of Whangārei.