Motorists are continuing to fork out more money for parking, with the council raking in a record haul.
In what's become an election issue, council figures reveal that revenue from parking fees and permits increased by $343,000 in the past year to top $17 million.
It is the latest in a series of steady increases, with the amount being paid for parking growing by 65 per cent since fees were raised to $4 an hour in 2004.
Now, some mayoral candidates are vowing to address parking and possibly cut charges amid concerns that "blatant revenue collecting" is driving shoppers out of the central city.
The figures, revealed in this year's annual report, show that revenue from fees and permits is now $17,042,000. That does not include parking fines, which pushes total revenue up to $25.4m.
But while people are spending more on parking, they're being fined less, with revenue from fines falling from $9.6m in 2005 to $8.4m.
City council spokesman Richard MacLean said a number of factors would have led to people spending more on parking.
The high level of enforcement meant people were becoming more compliant, and better technology - including the options of using credit cards and Snapper at pay and display machines - was making it easier to pay.
But Retailers Association chief executive John Albertson said that if the council was making that much money from parking, it was time to look at dropping fees.
"If compliance is higher, then do they actually need to be making that much more off it? Can they afford to give some back?"
Cutting parking costs, and retaining free weekend parking, would help keep Wellington competitive, he said.
"What we want is the maximum number of people coming into the city. We don't want to be setting up barriers to keep them out."
Kirkcaldie & Stains managing director John Milford said the council should be doing all it could to assist retailers, especially since their downtown levy payments subsidised the free weekend parking.
Addressing parking, and possibly reducing the cost, was one way the council could help the CBD economy, Mr Milford said, because the free parking at Queensgate mall in Lower Hutt, and North City in Porirua, was attracting shoppers away.
"If you put a high charge regime in and you police it vigorously, like they do, you are going to put people off," he added.
Council candidates are picking up on the parking issue, and some mayoral candidates have vowed to review services, and possibly trim the cost to users.
John Morrison said the current system was ‘‘blatant revenue collecting’’ and he planned to review the regime, saying it was driving people out of the city. ‘‘We have got to get as many people into the CBD as possible, spending and enjoying the environment.’’
Nicola Young said parking was a good form of revenue for the city, ‘‘but let’s stop the price gouging’’.
It had become a luxury to park in the city, which was not helping to keep it vibrant, she said.
‘‘Parking has always been a cash cow for the city, but now we’re pricing shoppers and visitors out of the city and this is sending the wrong signal.’’
But incumbent Celia Wade-Brown said the revenue reflected better technology and the city making it easier for drivers too comply.
She agreed the city had to be vibrant, but it might be better to look at the cost of buses, because if parking costs were cut, the revenue would have to come from somewhere else.
‘‘If you drop the parking fees, then basic arithmetic tells you that you either cut the services or put up rates, and I hope that my competitors work that out.’’
WHAT THE MAYORAL CANDIDATES SAY
Jack Yan: "I don't foresee a reduction [in parking prices], I don't foresee a rise either." John Morrison: "This militant parking regime is really totalitarian . . . I have a real problem with blatant revenue collecting."
Celia Wade-Brown: "Parking certainly needs to be looked at as part of the wider transport strategy."
Nicola Young: "We need to have a whole new look at the parking regime . . . At the moment it's just too punitive, it's extortionist and punitive."
Karunanidhi Muthu: "One of the things we should do is actually reduce the parking fee. That will encourage people to come to the city to do shopping, the retailers are suffering . . . I personally would prefer $2 an hour."
Rob Goulden: "I want to have a real careful look about the way we're doing things. I think the current regime is not good for a number of reasons."
- © Fairfax NZ News
Is John Banks' upcoming trial the end for the ACT party?Related story: Banks takes only viable option