Time limits considered for unrestricted car parks

Government Gardens is currently a mix of free and limited time parking. Photo / Laura Smith.

Commuters may lose unrestricted parks in central Rotorua as the council considers time limits for parking in three locations.

Earlier this year, elected members approved a doubling of hourly parking charges from $1 to $2 in the Annual Plan 2023-2024 for an extra $740,000 a year.

The number of paid parks was also increased by an extra $190,000.

On Wednesday, the Community and District Development Committee meeting agreed to consider the number of time-limited 180-minute parks in three areas of free parking surrounding the CBD: Kuirau Park, Government Gardens and the lakefront.

Being reserves, it needs to consult with the Gifted Reserves Protocol Committee, after which staff would come back to elected members with more information in November. It would look to approve further - and wider - consultation after this.

Community and district development group manager Jean-Paul Gaston said if the change went ahead it would need to monitor implications as commuters used these spaces.

Gaston said the inner city parking building on Pukuatua St was underutilised and needed to be “promoted effectively”, and other alternatives.

Mayor Tania Tapsell said it needed to be careful of “unintended consequences”, and spend time engaging with those who used the parks.

Tapsell said there would need to be a balance between city workers and those wanting to park to use the reserves.

The mayor asked for further information on whether those who parked in the three areas for work would have somewhere else to park, and the impact on rates if they didn’t have a “user-pays experience” with parking.

Hello Stranger on Hinemaru, located at the Arts Village, borders Government Gardens. Front-of-house staff member Corina Welsh told Local Democracy Reporting they relied on walk-in customers.

It could be frustrating that many of the parks in the gardens were taken up by city workers, but they needed somewhere to park too, she said.

“I think some solution is needed.”

Welsh felt a three-hour time limit was fair.

Rotorua Business Chamber chief executive Bryce Heard said it was always a difficult balance to strike.

He said he understood both sides of the situation - that some people were frustrated when parks were taken up by workers, but commuters needed to be considered too.

“We’re still a city small enough to have a rural mentality,” he said, in that people expected to be able to park right outside their destination.

There was “no perfect solution”, but he believed “proper transport” resulting in improved connectivity for both the workforce and visitors was part of it.

Councillor Conan O'Brien has questioned parking machine faults. Photo / Laura Smith.

Meanwhile, councillor Conan O’Brien said at the meeting a frequent concern from people was the number of times the i-Park payment machines were not working.

He asked what the breakdowns were costing the council.

Community and regulatory services manager Kurt Williams said he did not have the answer but the council met with i-Park on a monthly basis and a better overview of faults and repair time was being discussed.

The council contracted i-Park in 2018 when it modernised its parking services to a pay-by-plate model.

O’Brien said he was concerned it did not have that data.

“Before we start looking anywhere else I think...we should be trying to recover as much cost from the current system before we look at other options as well.”

Councillor Don Paterson said it impacted on the council’s reputation. He said a simpler reporting method might be good.

“We’re the ones people blame even though technically it isn’t us.”

Any parking changes or improvements would likely be implemented over the next 12 months.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.

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