Retailers flag parking woes – again

SHARE

They came, they spoke – and they may have conquered.
Ashburton retailers may have just about succeeded in turning parking in Ashburton’s central business district on its head, but it is a bit early to celebrate.
Retailers Tony Todd, Bob McDonald and Carolyn Cameron went back to push their case for an hour’s free parking after an earlier plea led to the council halving the cost of parking – a move not yet implemented, and now on hold.
Mr Todd said the halfprice move was a ‘‘copout’’ and council needed to be pro-active to revitalise the CBD.
They propose a system used in Taupo (and elsewhere) of smart meters where sensors are put into the road. They ‘‘log’’ a car’s arrival and send a text message to council staff when the parking time is up.
Now, on the motion of mayor Angus McKay, an Ashburton CBD working party will be set up likely to meet this week – involving four retailers, three councillors ( Crs Donna Favel, Neil Brown, chair, and Russell Ellis) and Mr McKay (ex officio) and will report back to council in August.
Mr Todd took issue with an earlier report from council about free parking in Timaru. That report said company staff moved vehicles up and down the street all day, but Mr Todd said he spent an afternoon ringing Stafford Street retailers who said parking was not an issue and they would not let staff do that.
Mr Todd said another reason put forward to keep meters was loss of revenue, ‘‘so let’s be frank here, we are talking about a loss of income of $131,400 of which council at their last meeting offered to halve the cost of parking, so we are actually talking, say, $60,000 to $70,00 in lost revenue’’.
Mr Todd said the council had $2.129m in its parking reserve account.
He said free parking had been a success elsewhere, with Lower Hutt CBD retail card spending growing 3 per cent during free parking and spending overall went up 5.6 per cent in the trial.
He said there was no charge for parking in Taupo, and six years ago it installed smart parking in 800 CBD parks at a cost of $300,000 – or $375 a park.
‘‘Let’s assume you have 300 parks. At $375 per park the cost is $112,500 and, Mr Chairman, you would still have $2m in the bank, so please don’t tell the residents of this district we can’t afford it and will need to increase rates to cover any shortfall,’’ Mr Todd said.
The retailers presented council with an in-store petition signed by 2154 people, an online petition of 286, and a Facebook page had 1180 likes.
They also took issue with Cr Alan Totty, who said, after hearing about the smart meters, that the situation could be more advanced if the research had been brought in earlier. Tony Todd and Carolyn Cameron said it was not their job to do the research, but council’s.
He moved the motion weeks ago to cut parking fees by half, saying that it was really the only option at the time.
The decision to cut the fees and to replace meters is on hold until the working party reports.