Unhappy Nelson retailers have given Nelson city councillors a clear message that they want free parking in the CBD as they struggle to compete with Richmond - and it could happen from next month.
On Monday Nelson city mayor Rachel Reese will work with council chief executive Clare Hadley to urgently bring in parking changes.
The crunch has come with startling figures recorded in the ASB Main Report, which show that for the first three months of the year, retail trade was down 5 per cent in Nelson but up 14 per cent in Tasman.
More than 25 retailers, developers and property owners met with the mayor and councillors at Trailways Hotel this week to vent their concerns.
Reese said: "Councillors and staff fully understand why parking changes need to happen and happen fast."
Options which would be looked at are two hours free parking, or paying for how long you parked, she said.
What had caused much of the reaction against parking was a fear of getting a ticket if you did not get back to your car in time. "Perception is the reality if you think you're going to get a ticket," she said.
The option of purchasing a ticket, then paying for how long you stayed when you left, would require extra equipment and would only be available in the city's squares, she said.
The two-hour free parking option was simpler and easier to implement but the council had to look at the financial implications, she said.
That included the impact the loss of revenue would have but that might be offset by not having to pay for that parking enforcement, Reese said. "If you are not having as many staff for parking enforcement it may be the cost of two-hour free parking is not as much."
It would be ambitious to introduce by July 1. "But I believe we are capable of doing it," she said.
The urgent move is to be made ahead of the outcome of a parking study the council has been carrying out this year to come up with a 10-year Nelson parking strategy.
Council governance committee chairman Ian Barker said businesspeople at the meeting shared a concern about the effect the council's parking policy was having.
"Retailer after retailer told us of the effects on them and when their lease is up they will decide whether they can afford to continue," he said.
The consequences would be dire for Nelson, he said "We don't want to see empty shops in our city, we want to see people not just going to restaurants and activities like that but a thriving CBD."
Retailer Glen Beattie, who has previously spoken out on the parking issue saying metered parking is killing business in central Nelson, described it as a good meeting and he was pleased they were able to air their concerns directly with councillors.
He hoped the retail trade figures brought home the problem to them. "My concerns are we are not on a level playing field, we need to be equal with Richmond and my customers do have problems with Nelson city's parking policy and the enforcement."
The council contracted out its parking operations last year to Environmental Services, which is required to issue at least 18,500 tickets a year. This is 1300 more than the council parking wardens used to average a year.
Barker said the issue was not with the contractor so much as the management agreement with it.
He believed there was a need to make parking free. "One of the concerns is the amount of heavy policing that has occurred in the last six months and retailers have really felt it strongly."
He believed the problems were a reflection of the council's philosophy of trying to get people to change their habits, getting them out of their cars and on to buses and bikes.
"Any reduction in parking to people who love their cars means they are going to go somewhere else, and they are going to Richmond.
"We do have a need in Nelson to make more friendly so people in Stoke go to Nelson, not Richmond," said Barker.
WHERE WE SHOP
Retail trade March quarter Nelson down 5% Tasman up 14%
ASB Main Report
- The Nelson Mail
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