A Rotorua Lakes Council candidate has fired shots at the council, accusing it of failing to hold its parking provider to account.
Innovative Parking Solutions Ltd, trading as iPark, took over operating the parking system in mid-2018 after changes were signalled in 2017.
Ryan Gray said the provider promised both coin and card payment options in all of its machines but the council said that was only included in the initial proposal and the decision to remove coin payments from some machines was made during contract negotiations.
During the confidential section of a strategy, policy and finance committee meeting on December 7, 2017, committee members were given a report recommending the council outsource carpark management services to Harding Traffic Ltd, later changed to
Innovative Parking Solutions Ltd.
Gray obtained the report and provided it to the Rotorua Daily Post.
In it, the proposal of the operator is preferred "as it provides the best overall value in terms of technology, services and price".
The proposal included funding, installation, operation and maintenance of 77 to 80 parking terminals in the CBD capable of "accepting all payment options from coin to mobile parking apps".
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But only half of the machines accept coins, a fact the council has come under fire for.
Gray said he believed the parking provider had not held up its side of the deal.
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"Unless you park next to a machine that accepts coins, you need to walk across the road in order to pay by coins, which on a wet day, or for those with mobility issues, can cause major issues," Gray said.
"In my view, only allowing payment by coins at half of the parking terminals is merely a revenue-gathering exercise as it encourages people to pay by credit card, which incurs a ridiculous 50 cent charge."
Gray said it had been almost a year since the new terminals had been installed and the promised car parking app was not available.
"I've spoken to many in our community that will no longer park in the CBD if they can't get a free 60-minute park. This means our inner-city businesses suffer."
Gray said, if elected, he would fight for the parking provider to deliver on what was proposed and get coins accepted at all machines, of any amount, see the payment app released and launch a public education campaign so everyone was confident using the terminals.
Gray said he would also get rid of the 20 cent receipt surcharge and seek feedback on whether the car parking zones were fit for purpose.
The council's operations group manager, Henry Weston, said a decision to make coin payment available in only half of the machines was made during the contract negotiation process.
"This decision recognised that coin payment facilities would still be useful to some sectors of the community, but also acknowledged the wider trend of parking systems worldwide moving away from coin payment options and the associated management costs.
"Having all machines with coin capability would have led to a significant increase in the cost of the contract."
The council would not provide a copy of the final contract, citing commercial sensitivity.
Weston said the parking payment app was in the testing phase and should be available to users in Rotorua in the next couple of months.
An iPark spokesman said all aspects of the parking policy including configuration, time limits and fees were solely the council's responsibility.
"It is iPark's role to provide the services according to the council's direction. The decision to provide a mix of cash capable and cashless terminals was made by the council during the contract negotiation phase.
"It is not within iPark's contractual authority to specify the ratio of cash capable to cashless terminals."
When asked if he was willing to change all machines to accept coins, despite a cost, Gray said it was hard to know what the cost would be.
"The real cost is the people choosing not to come into town because of the machines.
"Lots of people in the community have said if they can't get 60-minute parking they don't come any more."
What the candidates say
If elected what would you change about CBD parking?
"As part of the RDRR group, I support its policy of giving one-hour free parking as an incentive to bring quick shoppers back to the CBD. Some businesses have other needs, so further consultation should happen with them in order to ascertain the needs of their clients/customers. Distribution of disability parking must also be addressed."
Steve Chadwick (mayoral candidate):
"Council is undertaking a review of the inner city, including parking. I want this to include the development of an inner-city housing plan which will impact on parking and traffic flow. We will consult with the community on the best way to manage parking. An app will help people identify vacant parks. We need all-day parking on the CBD edges."
The council is saying they want people back in the CBD yet they introduce a parking system that is complicated to many older people and a rip -off. Council must at least make all of the pay stations capable of accepting coins as payment. The outsourcing of any Council service is a mistake as the suppliers have no consideration for the public.
Dennis Curtis (mayoral candidate):
"The transition to i-Park was sold to Rotorua around technology and smart interface management, demand for parking, successful CBD, obsolete parking system. I have not personally experienced any benefit from it. Something must be changed, what that is - I'd like to invite the community to help make that change and council to listen intently."
"If elected I would support reinstating the lost car parks in the CBD from the cycleway and incentivise people to shop and do business in the CBD by offering free parking for one hour if you have purchased something in a nearby shop. We need to be more innovative and replace all the parking meters to coin transactions."
"The extension of meters into areas that were uncontrolled has forced CBD workers to park beyond the Millennium Hotel, around Poly Pools, in the Government Gardens, Blue Baths and the Lakefront. The meters are difficult to use in the bright sun and when it is raining. The 50 cent charge and the removal of 15-minute bays is not popular."
"I supported council's existing parking policy developed with input from key stakeholders. I acknowledge some issues with the implementation and the new technology rollout. I am open to change but it needs to be part of a comprehensive inner-city plan [including multi-modal transport and housing options] with operational costs recouped on a user-pay basis, not at general ratepayer expense."
"I would like to work with the current contractor to improve the way parking is provided. The system of some cash and some card machines is complicated and the surcharge for card use increases the overall cost. Better provision for short-term, free parking needs to be implemented. The needs of the CBD business need to be prioritised before profit."
"I have had a parking policy since being in retail over 20 years ago. The council does not understand retail needs and customer flow. Every area has differences. It's not as easy as putting in extra parking, but taking parking away when parking is needed is idiotic. You just can not fix problems with the very people that created them."
"The city cycleway drastically cut available parks which impacted on businesses. It should be removed and car parks restored. The parking meters in the city are not shopper-friendly and disadvantage the elderly and people with mobility problems. These meters should be replaced with a mix of coin machines and one-hour free inner city parking."
"Immediately return the green corridor into parking spaces and introduce one-hour free parking in the CBD, all-day parking on the perimeter and open up the Events Centre car park when not in use so workers can exit the Lakefront and Government Gardens. Consult CBD business to establish a working parking plan within three months. Bring parking back in-house."
Sandra Kai Fong:
"My policy is one-hour free parking. The current CBD parking is too complicated. Locals and visitors find it difficult to know where the free parking is or what time periods apply, how to pay and at what cost. Let's make CBD parking simpler, locally enforced and more user-friendly for locals, visitors and businesses to entice people to use the CBD."
Rob Kent (mayoral candidate):
"CBD parking is one of my 15 key campaign issues. To revitalise the CBD properly I believe parking should be free, with a 30-minute limit in Tutanekai St, four-hour limit elsewhere. We have the number-plate reading i-Park scan car able to prevent abuse of this by those who should use longer-term parking areas."
"Regarding Parking wardens - nobody hates them just don't like them as they give fines."
Reynold Macpherson (mayoral candidate):
"New parking arrangements are needed to help rescue the CBD which now has record numbers of empty shops. The CBD cycleway should be rerouted along the Lakefront to restore stolen parking. The first hour of parking should be free with charges enforced after that to ensure turnover. Mandatory parking for upstairs accommodation should be scrapped to boost conversions and footfall."
"The current system is a shambles. All meters should accept both coins and cards and offer longer periods for paid parking. Parking should be free for the first two hours with more parking available after we remove the failed Green Corridor. Workers should be encouraged to park on the outskirts of the CBD with free all-day parking options."
"I support the current policy but I am open to change if a comprehensive study is worked on including input from the business community."
"I want to make all of the parking meters coin-based, remove the card readers and speed up the roll-out of the parking app. I want to engage with business owners to better design the free parking areas and create a better parking solution for staff."
"CBD parking in Rotorua is a mess. It is confusing, frustrating and impractical and along with the Green Corridor debacle needs an overhaul. A 2.0 solution requires genuine [not prescribed] consultation with shop owners and customers, with a filter of practicality and common-sense thrown in. Our CBD has enough issues at present - basic parking should not be one of them."
"I would like to see an increased number of parking machines and for all the machines to take coins, eftpos and credit cards. Payment should be able to be done online and via internet banking. Free hour parking in the CBD and the policy engagement with retailers to establish criteria where 15, 30 and 60-minute parks should be allocated."
"I have spoken to most of our business owners and I have a solution in hand which I presented to the council meeting last night."
"Parking within the CDB is now constantly monitored. Parking time limits vary to ensure parking places get freed up on a regular basis. I'm not overly enthused with the new parking meters but I have got used to them. The parking time limits are what seems to bug everyone. I'd monitor more and ask retailers to give us a steer."
"I would like to see more 15-minute free parking spaces around the CBD, and first hour free in some areas. We also require a new parking building or designated parking area, which should be constructed and managed by a parking company. Bus services need to be reviewed. We need to make it easier for people to get to and from work."
Alan Tāne Solomon:
"It needs to be user-friendly, easy for our elderly folk, free for the first 30 mins, then user pays after that, reintroduce all the lost parks from the non-used cycleway."
"I would certainly be looking to remove and replace the current parking meters. Our residents are understandably very frustrated with the new systems and the added fee for using your debit card is just plain unfair."
"There is free one-hour parking on Tutanekai and all side streets at least halfway which has not changed. The Government Gardens and the Lakefront should be free for up to three hours. My policy is to investigate a public transport service to alleviate all day inner-city parking concerns with a park and ride service from, Westside, Eastside and Ngongotahā."
"I do have a policy for parking and it's called "go back to the old system". The new system is an inconvenience, with added surcharges to credit cards, senior citizens are not privy to technology, the city has a decline in locals to town. If elected I would like to see the old system back, keeping the disabled extra parking."
Did not respond: Liz Carrington, Richard Collins, Julie Kerry, Lachlan McKenzie, Harina Rinaha Rupapera, Tania Tapsell, Fisher Wang, Mercia Yates