Free parking takes a ride as Hamiltonians balk at proposed rate extras

Extra rates charges on citizens and city building owners would fund the "free" CBD parking under Hamilton City Council's ...
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

Extra rates charges on citizens and city building owners would fund the "free" CBD parking under Hamilton City Council's proposal.

Hamiltonians have had their say on a central city parking plan and the answer is no.

An increased rates bill seems to have put most residents off the plan. They were unwilling to pay an average $26 annual fee for two free hours a day in the city centre.

And most who shared their view on the Hamilton City Council proposal were unconvinced it would bolster the CBD.

The parking plan is touted as a way to boost the CBD, but many submitters were unconvinced.
TOM LEE/FAIRFAX NZ

The parking plan is touted as a way to boost the CBD, but many submitters were unconvinced.

The idea was to pull the meters out of the CBD and give parkers a two-hour daily maximum, but that would slice $1.45m off parking revenue each year.  Council proposed targeted rates on homeowners to cover 90 per cent and central city businesses would pick up the other 10 per cent.

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Almost 450 Hamiltonians had their say through submissions to council's 2017/2018 Annual Plan and 82 per cent of them said no.

Free parking was a campaign focus for Councillor Geoff Taylor, who said councillors had a lot to think about after the ...
DOMINICO ZAPATA/FAIRFAX NZ

Free parking was a campaign focus for Councillor Geoff Taylor, who said councillors had a lot to think about after the submissions.

About 170 of the opposing submissions came through a Generation Zero survey, but even excluding those, the disapproval rate was still 74 per cent.

Patricia Gregory was one of those speaking against the proposal at hearings day on Thursday.

She wondered why council would give up parking meter income when the loss was significant enough to add an average of $26 to rates.

"The only fair method of parking in the CBD is user pays," she said.

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Chartwell Shopping Centre manager Tina Boyd said the proposal would be "giving CBD businesses an unfair advantage, having parking subsidised by other retailers that are outside the CBD".

The centre has about 120 retailers and paid for the 1095 carparks it provides - as council requires developers to.

Equity was a common theme in submissions - one written submitter said he hadn't been to the CBD for a decade or more. Others said the proposal would cost those who didn't use a car.

Other submitters said the plan wouldn't boost CBD vibrancy and suggested out-of-towners would enjoy the parking at Hamilton's expense. Others questioned council over its claim that it would lose fines as revenue if people would still be pinged for parking more than two hours.

Number plate recognition technology measures the two hours a day by vehicle, Geoff Kreegher said.

His wife could use the allocation, for example, so he couldn't if he drove the same car later.

About 170 submissions were from a survey by Generation Zero, a youth-led group which promotes cutting carbon emissions.

Speaker Aaron Wong told councillors there were concerns the proposal wasn't easily reversible, and wanted council to reject it or park it until long-term plan discussions.

There was parking plan support from Waikato Regional Council - but it didn't see it as a permanent measure.

"This would be perhaps a two- to three-year measure to help bring some vibrancy back to the CBD," team leader for transport planning Bill McMaster said.

Almost half of the 102 central city businesses polled by Hamilton Central Business Association agreed with the plan, but nearly 40 per cent said no.

Councillor Geoff Taylor campaigned on free parking and said councillors had a lot to think about after the meeting.

"Obviously a big sticking point for people is the thought of an average rate of $26 to pay for it," he said.

And Cr Paula Southgate still wants more information on central parking and city revitalisation.

"We're going to have to weigh up the sheer number that seem to be opposed to [the parking plan]."

What do Hamiltonians think of the central parking plan?

* 449 submissions, 173 from a Generation Zero survey
* 82 per cent against the plan overall
* 95 per cent of Generation Zero respondents against it
* 74 per cent of other respondents opposed
* Support from 46 per cent of central businesses surveyed by Hamilton Central Business Association
Source: Hamilton City Council submission analysis report

 - Stuff

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