Tech plan for parking windfall

KATIE CHAPMAN
Last updated 05:00 26/07/2013

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Wellington motorists are forking out as much as $16 million in parking fees, and the council is eyeing better technology as a way of raising more.

An update sent to Wellington City councillors this week shows new technology has been identified as the best way to increase parking revenue for the council.

But that is being criticised by one councillor, who says it should be focusing on people, not on the bottom line.

"There is, in these times, an extraordinary preoccupation with stripping people of money and pretending it's customer service," Paul Eagle said.

In the past financial year, Wellington City Council made about $16m from on-street parking and permit fees, and about $8m more from infringement notices.

Parking revenue in the 2010-11 financial year was $25.8m.

The update to councillors this week, obtained by The Dominion Post, looked at the benefits of outsourcing parking services compared with returning them in-house when the contract comes up for renewal later this year.

It informed councillors that Wellington had at least five times the volume of parking fines of Lower Hutt and Porirua, and that outsourcing provided value for money.

"Council is unlikely to deliver on-street services at a lower cost," it said. "There is no evidence that would be markedly different in either scenario."

Better technology was the best way of improving customer service and increasing revenue, the update said.

Wellington already offers txt-to-pay and credit card services, and recently introduced Snapper as another way to pay for parking.

Transport portfolio leader Andy Foster said he thought people would appreciate the new "customer-friendly" technology being investigated.

One of the initiatives was a text message service that reminded people when their parking meter was about to run out, and gave them the option of topping up via their phone.

But Mr Eagle said the report to councillors had not looked at the role parking had in the reputation of a city, instead focusing on increasing revenue.

No-one had looked at what people thought of parking services, and the fact the high cost and over-zealous parking wardens were making people avoid the city.

He wanted that to be investigated so the council could make a decision on whether to bring the service back in-house, he said.

Council spokesman Richard MacLean said the update was part of the retendering process, but he doubted bringing the service in-house would have any bearing on the way it was perceived in the city.

"Even when parking services were run [in-house] we were certainly not popular then, and were considered to be excessive and over-zealous."

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Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said the focus for parking was to ensure a good turnover of cars to help boost the city's economy.

- The Dominion Post

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