Parking revenue drop-off disturbs

Questions are being asked about whether a $425,000 drop in central Nelson parking income is linked to fewer parking wardens patrolling car parks, or whether fewer people are driving into the city to shop.

Parking income for the year is 22 per cent under budget, according to a staff report to the city council's audit, risk and finance committee.

The shortfall is likely to mean ratepayers will be asked to shoulder the burden, councillor Gail Collingwood said.

Yesterday's meeting was attended by nine staff and two councillors, plus appointed committee member Graeme Thomas who took the quorum to three.

Committee chairman and councillor Ian Barker said the income was a "huge reduction" and queried if it was the result of a reduction in policing.

"I just hope it's not indicative of a reduction in spending in the CBD," Mr Barker said.

He believed a lot more people, particularly from Stoke, were now shopping in Richmond, judging by how full the Nelson car parks were on "free parking Tuesdays".

Asked if he thought the drop in revenue might be linked to people refusing to pay because of the precedent set by Nelson vagrant Lewis Stanton, Mr Barker said it was difficult to say but he certainly knew people were "hosed off". Mr Stanton, also known as Hone Ma Heke, has been issued with more than $50,000 in parking infringements and said recently he had "absolutely no intention" of paying them.

The Nelson City Council has referred over $30,000 of the fines to the Ministry of Justice for collection.

Mr Barker said outside yesterday's meeting he was aware of how annoyed people were with the situation. "I don't think it's in the general public psyche to not pay because he hasn't, but I have heard people say that if he can get away with it, they can too.

"I know people are really hosed off he's getting away with it but I don't think the fall in parking revenue is connected."

He said if people had taken that stance, it would begin to show in any increase in the number of fines as a result of people refusing to pay infringement notices.

The council said in May it was reviewing the resources it needed to monitor parking in light of falling revenues and the resignation of three of its parking wardens. They resigned under circumstances which remain unclear but the council said at the time it had taken steps to ensure adequate coverage of parking monitoring until replacements were found.

The report to yesterday's meeting said the drop was mainly in off-street meters (parking squares such as Wakatu Square car park) where income was $360,000 below budget. However, off-street permits and on-street meters were also "significantly under budget".

The projected drop is close to $490,000 the report said. However, there is better news in the public transport arena - revenue is up because of better than expected ticket sales. The council relies on parking revenue to help run the NBus service. Last year $308,000 from parking money helped toward the $1.3 million annual running cost of the buses.

Mrs Collingwood said it was important for people to realise how much money was collected from parking, and that the shortfall would burden ratepayers. "We will be paying more rates if people are not putting money in the meters. It's a user tax."