Riders pledge protests if free motorcycle parks go

SHRINKING SPACE: Brent Hutchison is concerned city motorcycle parks may disappear.
SHRINKING SPACE: Brent Hutchison is concerned city motorcycle parks may disappear.

Bikers say city streets will be clogged with thousands of protesters if Wellington City Council proceeds with suggestions to scrap free on-street parking for motorcycles and scooters.

The move would make Wellington the first city in New Zealand to charge motorcycle parking fees.

The council is also considering whether to remove motorcycle parking from the streets and make bikers park for a set fee in parking buildings.

Bikers' Rights Organisation of New Zealand Wellington president Brent Hutchison said there was "sheer red-hot anger" within the biker community over both suggestions, which he said were "alluded to" by council officers.

"We do object to being forced to take ... contracts in parking buildings or having to pay for all-day parking in the already-limited motorcycle parking spaces in the city."

Mr Hutchison organised the 2009 "bikoi" – a protest ride to Wellington by more than 6500 riders over an increase in ACC levies. "They will end up with another bikoi in the city ... We will turn to our allies, the Motorcycle Action Group of New Zealand, and we will let them take over if negotiations fail. These guys will protest and they will roll thousands of bikes into the city."

Motorcycles are proven to be better for the environment than cars, and cause less road congestion, but council officers disputed those points, Mr Hutchison said. "That is absolutely pathetic."

A Bronz petition against a fee regime has been signed by more than 1850 people since it was posted three days ago.

A council bylaw prohibits motorcycles and scooters from being parked in either metered or pay-and-display parks, in recognition of free parking for bikes.

The council estimates about 1100 motorbikes come into the central city daily – a 178 per cent increase in the past decade. There is free parking for 500 on streets.

Council infrastructure director Stavros Michael said it was expected that the number of motorbikes and scooters coming into the city would continue to grow. If more on-street car parks were added to the existing 500 to meet demand, then the council would consider imposing a charging regime.

"With the current economic climate, it is not sustainable to continue to increase the amount of free spaces for motorcycles at the expense of fee-paying car-parking.

"Ultimately, the revenue required to maintain the roading network would have to be funded from other sources, and we need to consider the burden on ratepayers."

The council controls only 10 per cent of available parking space in the city. Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said the council was talking to the operators of privately owned parking buildings about offering more off-street parking for motorcyclists.

"They can park their motorcycles under cover, without them being backed into or blown over, for about $2 a day."

Walking, cycling, motorcycling and safety portfolio leader Bryan Pepperell, a motorcyclist, said he did not support the introduction of parking fees and doubted his colleagues would either. "It would be a politically contentious thing for the council to take on."

Formal consultation with motorcycle groups starts next month as part of the council's review of its parking policy.

The Dominion Post