Council weighs up free parking

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 05:00 14/07/2014

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Providing free parking in the Blenheim central business district could cost ratepayers $1 million a year, a council report says.

That equates roughly to a 7 per cent rates increase.

The Marlborough District Council's community and finance committee is to discuss the council's parking policy at its meeting tomorrow morning.

The staff report to the meeting makes no recommendations, leaving it open to councillors to decide what to do next. It is expected councillors will approve wider public consultation to review the council's parking strategy.

The last time council car-parking was reviewed was in 2006, when both Blenheim and Picton were looked at. This time, just Blenheim was being considered and Picton would be considered later, the report said.

Eight years ago, 200 more car parks were called for in Blenheim, but this year, the review found an extra 480 had been provided in the central business area.

The staff report says some of the parks were created with a plan to develop them later. These include 2 High St and the Old Workingmen's Club site in Wynen St.

The Blenheim car parking account was in deficit by around $350,000 a year, the report says. This was because some property purchases were funded from the account as well as the development of the car parking building.

That deficit could be eliminated by either paying to buy development sites such as 2 High St from a more appropriate reserve fund, or by increasing parking fees, the report says.

Fees have not been increased since 2006 largely due to the impact of the global financial crisis. The report suggests an increase by 20 cents an hour to compensate for inflation since 2006, and metering areas such as the former Radio Station in Kinross St.

It notes that Nelson is trialling free parking, but that it comes at a cost.

Parking could be free in the Blenheim central business district (CBD) with time restrictions, the report says.

However, the cost would need to be funded by a rate increase. That increase is estimated at 7 per cent.

"Free parking would cost ratepayers approximately $1m per annum. This covers enforcement, maintenance, capital upgrades of equipment and debt servicing."

The report said several issues with parking had been identified.

Parking wardens monitoring vehicles for registration and expired warrant and infringements caused some issues with the public who do not see this as wardens' role.

This was a policy decision made by the council many years ago as a way of improving vehicle safety. It also produced revenue which would need to be raised from other sources if the policy is changed.

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Some members of the public believed there should be free parking in the CBDs.

Retailers would like to see different options for parking and enforcement to encourage people into the centre of town, including free parking on certain days. CBD workers would like free all day parking.

Residential areas adjacent to the central business district were getting congested with commuter parking, while commuter parking areas were full of vineyard workers' vehicles all day.

Designated parking for camper vans had been suggested in both Blenheim and Picton CBDs.

The report found some inconsistencies in terms of free car parking and metered car parking. For example, the carpark outside the stadium complex was free while the one across the road from the cinema complex was metered.

- The Marlborough Express

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