Parking problems boil over

DEMANDING ANSWERS: Retailers voice their complaints about paid parking in Palmerston North to Mayor Jono Naylor.
DEMANDING ANSWERS: Retailers voice their complaints about paid parking in Palmerston North to Mayor Jono Naylor.

Tensions ran high at an impromptu meeting over Palmerston North's paid parking woes, with city retailers telling Mayor Jono Naylor they want the system fixed by Christmas.

When Verdict Cafe owner Carole Hawley invited Mr Naylor yesterday to meet customers who had experienced difficulties with the city's Frog Parking system, she had not expected the meeting to be gatecrashed.

As soon as other city business owners caught wind of the appointment, they packed into the cafe to voice concerns about the parking system they say is so complex it is turning away shoppers.

The Frog parking system has been in place since mid-2011. Since then the system, which uses sensors in the road to detect if a vehicle is present, has been criticised as too difficult for some people to use.

Mrs Hawley said businesses around The Square were becoming cashiers to provide change to people feeding parking meters.

Spectra Hair owner Gabrielle Bundy-Cooke said Palmerston North was getting a bad reputation for its aggressive parking system: "We are the laughing stock. We need to do all we can, because at the moment Palmerston North is a bit short and prickly about parking."

Mr Naylor got a grilling from the gathered retailers, with cafe customers occasionally chiming in with their views.

The meeting closed with a list of potential solutions the mayor promised to raise at an upcoming Palmerston North City Council workshop.

"I have heard the issues and now I can go away and take some action on this," Mr Naylor said.

Ideas included a four-hour parking period, extending the parking time allowance by two hours, longer parking times for senior citizens, a move back to pay-and-display methods to prove parking was paid when meters malfunctioned or the wrong bay was credited, and free parking for the two weeks leading up to Christmas.

It was even suggested "meter maids" provide shoppers with relief by topping up parking meters throughout the Christmas shopping period.

Mr Naylor offered to put the idea of half-price parking until Christmas to the council.

"I think it would be a good step that we could take that would help to encourage people back in because I must say I don't want to see town empty."

Mrs Bundy-Cooke, one of the architects of a petition calling for a review of the system, was pleased with the mayor's response to the meeting.

"He was totally caught off guard but he handled it really, really well. These changes need to happen but just how long is that going to take? We are all still getting $40 tickets."

Manawatu Standard