Parking anger boils over

Dunedin Mayor Peter Chin and Cr Michael Guest face an angry crowd of 120 at the Leviathan Hotel....
Dunedin Mayor Peter Chin and Cr Michael Guest face an angry crowd of 120 at the Leviathan Hotel. Photo by Jane Dawber.
Mayor Peter Chin was shouted down as Dunedin retailers vented their fury at changes to the city's parking regime during a public meeting last night.

The angry exchanges came as Mr Chin and Crs John Bezett and Michael Guest admitted mistakes in the implementation of the new parking system, but pleaded for a chance to fix the faults.

About 120 business owners at the meeting at the Leviathan Hotel, organised by hotel owner Peter Laing, called for the new parking system to be abandoned until problems could be fixed, and formed a group to meet councillors and council staff as soon as today.

Speakers shared horror stories of how the changes had hurt their businesses, some claiming takings had dropped by up to 40%.

The city's 153 new pay-and-display machines became operational on Monday, replacing most of the city's short-term parking, and allowed motorists to park for up to four hours, at a cost of up to $4 each hour.

The changes aimed to discourage motorists from circling, waiting for a free park.

However, speakers argued the opposite had occurred - parks that were short-term were now occupied for longer periods.

Paasha Turkish Cafe owner Paul Martin said he, like many other business owners, was losing money "every single day".

"We are in Dunedin to make money and make Dunedin a profitable place.

". . . there is a big mistake. Why don't you just say . . . `Let's just put it back'," he said, to loud applause.

Earlier, Mr Chin's attempt to background the council's parking changes was shouted down by the angry audience.

At a second attempt, Mr Chin suggested some claims being made were "perhaps a little bit of an exaggeration", prompting another furious response.

Cr Guest's intervention, insisting "We can fix this", was met with more shouting and derision, as was his cry of "This is us and us, not you and us".

He conceded mistakes had been made and some free parks had been removed in error.

There had also been a lack of "one-to-one" consultation.

The council had been guided by "experts", but it appeared it was possible "the experts were wrong", Cr Guest said.

He pledged to visit stores, listen to concerns and make changes where possible, but took exception to allegations the council had been "arrogant".

"For God's sake, we are listening . . ." he said.

Cr Fliss Butcher was also at the meeting, but did not speak.

Speaking afterwards, Cr Bezett said talks with the meeting's delegates would begin immediately, and the council had the power to make some individual changes "quite quickly".

That could include reinstating some short-term free parks, or reducing the four-hour maximum stay at some, or all, of the city's new meters, he said.

However, the new strategy "won't be rolled back" completely, he warned.

"That can't happen."

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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