Free parking for central city New Plymouth has busy first day
Some New Plymouth shoppers were met with a pleasant surprise as they rummaged for spare change to pay for parking on Saturday.
The New Plymouth District Council started its 10 week trial of Saturday free parking in the CBD in an attempt to bring more shoppers to the area over the weekends.
Although the trial has done away with any charge for parks on CBD streets, a two hour time limit remains on Devon St, between Robe St and Eliot St. This means instead of shoppers being able to top up their meter and extend their parking time, they will instead have to move to a new park after two hours to avoid a ticket.
Shopper Andrew Mitchell said the first he heard of the free parking was when he was approached for the story as he hopped out of his car.
"I think it's a good idea though," he said.
"I'll definitely be coming into town a lot more in the weekend now."
Mitchell said he and his family usually shop in the Waiwhakaiho Valley because it was easier to find a park.
"I'm from Waikato originally and people there have seen the destruction of the central city with a lot of the shops being moved out of town," he said.
"If you open up a lot of shopping outside the CBD people will migrate there.
"Having free parking is one way to fix that I reckon."
Another Shopper Jan Struan said free parking would be a good thing for shop keepers.
"If people can't park they often just leave," she said.
"You don't want the town to slowly start moving out of the city centre like what is happening in Hamilton."
"It would be a real shame if something like that happened here."
Bateman's Bakery retail assistant Maesie Chevriot said they had had a pretty busy morning.
"We had several customers comment on the parking," she said.
"It's a smart option I think because we have had people say they drive around for ages looking for a park before giving up and going somewhere else."
"I didn't even know about it until our customers said something so maybe some signage would be helpful."
Owner of Byers Jewellery Ross Byers said Saturday was not as busy as anticipated and he had read about it in the newspaper.
"I think it's a great idea," he said.
"I hear customers complain about the lack of parks almost every day."
"I think it could mix up the busy trading hours like we saw happen with free parking for the elderly."
New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd said the trial was put in place to give retailers a bit of a boost as they enter into the holiday period.
"The current economic climate is difficult for retailers as a result of the downturn in the dairy, oil and gas industries," he said.
"Retail trade is down, consumer confidence is down, business confidence is down."
Once the 10 week trial period expires on January 16 next year the $2 per hour fee will be reinstated until the council decide whether they will continue with the scheme.