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Calls for more car parking are almost as inevitable as death and taxes in New Zealand cities. Dunedin is no exception.
The cycleways being constructed along Dunedin’s one-way network have been narrowed and modified from their original design to ensure as many on-street car parks as possible could be retained.
Nevertheless, reduced parking has already had an effect.
In an Otago Daily Times report last month, Otago Museum director Ian Griffin said the cycleway’s construction had caused a "significant" reduction in car parking, affecting visitor numbers.
While the museum supported the cycleway project, Dr Griffin said he was disappointed the decrease in parking spaces had yet to be addressed by the Dunedin City Council.
The museum hosted about 350,000 visitors annually with at least 60% of those coming from outside Dunedin, "and they generally need somewhere to park".
So, too, do a significant number of the tertiary students who drive into North Dunedin each day, most circulating around the area’s residential streets as they hunt for vacant parks.
Of more concern is the lack of adequate parking close to Dunedin Hospital.
It is bad enough for patients and visitors, who have to drive around some of the city’s busiest roads as they search for parking spaces, often having to stop in traffic and reverse into parallel car parks on State Highway 1 itself.
But for the staff working around the clock at the hospital, the lack of car parks has been a constant and acute frustration.
Nurses’ current negotiations hinge on more than just money — working conditions being another key complaint. Forcing Dunedin’s nurses to park on the street as far as several hundred metres away from the hospital, despite their shifts often ending in the dead of night, is unacceptable.
As a city we should have done far better for them a long time ago, and their parking needs must be better met when the new hospital opens in 2026.
Meanwhile, the Dunedin City Council has indicated it will increase trials of central pedestrianised zones over the coming years, leaving more of the city’s existing on-street parking threatened.
There is an argument such inconveniences are not accidental, that those who champion alternative transport modes over cars see benefits in making the use of cars less practical.
There is some value to the notion of inconveniencing car use. For a long time, motorists’ needs dominated New Zealand town planning at the expense of almost all else.
However, other cities around the world have managed to evolve to offer significant pedestrian zones and safe, convenient and affordable alternative transport options. They are praised for their urban character, liveability and atmosphere. While Dunedin could benefit from such a shift, the current deficiency in off-street parking must first be addressed.
The safety implications of having drivers negotiate busy streets while concentrating on finding and reversing into car parks seems obvious. So, too, does the danger of having children — the target audience of Otago Museum’s fabulous new Tuhura science area, and frequent visitors to the hospital — exiting car doors next to highway traffic.
Dunedin should be doing all it can to celebrate the magnificent Otago Museum and encourage as many children to visit as possible.It should be ensuring its hospital workers’ time is valued while patients, visitors and other road users are kept safe.
If prioritising intensive off-street car parking over our current sprawling on-street model could improve safety and roading capacity, increase patronage at Otago Museum, provide better patient and visitor convenience and safety at Dunedin Hospital and improve the working week for our valued hospital staff, then it must be investigated.
It is precisely the sort of public infrastructure city councils exist to provide. It may be time the Dunedin City Council began doing so.