Would a free parking scheme make you more likely to shop in central Nelson?
Nelson retailers and shoppers could be in for a reprieve as a free winter parking proposal goes to the Nelson City Council's table for approval.
The council will meet tomorrow to discuss proposals including free parking for up to three hours from next Tuesday until the end of September, distributing free return bus tickets, advertising on the side of buses, and warnings issued to soon to expire registrations or warrants of fitness with those expired within the last month being given two weeks to renew.
A report by council chief executive Clare Hadley outlines the struggle of retailers in Nelson over the winter and the impact stores such as K-Mart had on their profitability.
However, the way the city's parking has been organised has long been criticised by retailers who have said metered parking, stringent parking wardens, and restrictive parking times were killing business and sending customers to Richmond's free parking retail centre.
The council met with inner city retailers and businesses earlier this month to discuss challenges they were facing.
Achilles Properties director Rob Stevenson helped organise the workshop and said the city council had "lost the plot" over parking and its enforcement.
"It's fair to say the new enforcement regime has been completely over the top and I think they need to go back and find a balance between enforcement and encouraging people to visit the CBD and I think they lost that," he said.
He said the initiatives being put to the council showed they were listening to retailers and businesses.
Nelson City Cameras co-owner Simon Burge said free winter parking would bring immediate relief to retailers.
"If they try it like this I think it will be good as it will give you an idea whether things pick up or if you see a change. From that point of view it will be good to look at," he said.
Burge hoped the council would eventually install a pay at the end system in the parking squares - similar to the system used at the airport.
Gustaves Menswear co-owner Gus Beullens also backed the proposal saying winter was a difficult time for retailers.
"As long as the office workers and the retail workers don't use it as a means of parking nearer to their work I think it will be great," he said.
Under Nelson's bylaws, time-limits for the city's parking squares apply to the whole square - drivers are not allowed to park for three hours and then move to another park in the same square as they have met the time limit.
Hadley suggested in her report that the council call on businesses to back up the parking initiatives with complementary incentives to attract customers.
Uniquely Nelson manager Cathy Madigan said a number of incentives were already in place, such as late nights on Hardy St, the Light Festival, dining promotions, winter sales and the winter music festival.
"The whole objective is that we know we've got a great city, we know we've got great things happening. Winter is a great time in the city, but we just want to make it easier for people to enjoy that," she said. "It's about generating more foot traffic."
However, she said if the council approved the proposals, time limits would still apply to parking spaces and people would need to keep an eye on this.
The council could lose up to $285,000 worth of parking revenue under the system, but $100,000 allocated to parking in the annual plan would partially offset this.
Another $30,000 could be lost with free bus rides, but Hadley has suggested that the council look at making buses "mobile billboards" with advertising on their sides.
Financial losses from the parking changes would be reported to the council's infrastructure committee and a focus group with businesses may be held at the end of winter to evaluate the initiatives.
In the meantime the council is carrying out a parking study to investigate a long-term strategy for the city's parking.
- The Nelson Mail
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