When $1 an hour is simply too much to pay for parking

Otago University student Stacey Fletcher laments the advent of paid parking at the Unipol Recreation Centre.

A couple of weeks ago, my flatmate and I completed one of our first gym sessions of the year down at Unipol by the stadium. And, while perhaps the focus here should be on the fact we took almost two months to venture to do some much-needed exercise, instead it's on the awful surprise we received when walking back to our car.

On the way from the gym we bumped into a friend who told us we had received a parking ticket.

He promptly confirmed he was joking, but then attempted to continue his ribbing by saying, even though we didn't get a ticket, the parking officer had been walking around our car a few minutes prior. We were confused as to how he came up with all of this when everyone knows the Unipol car park is free. Or rather the Unipol car park was free.

Sure enough, once directed to it, we saw a meter at the front of the car park demanding $1 for every hour. Even though we had not been issued a ticket, we easily could have been.

It will probably not shock many to hear that, as stingy students willing only to spend extra money on food and nights out, we were in absolute uproar about these developments.

An entire night in our flat was dedicated to discussing possible reasons and how much of an inconvenience it would be for us. My flatmate claims, rather ironically, if she were to get fat this year it would be none other than the gym's fault.

To be honest, I don't find the new meter that surprising. Dunedin has some of the most intensely tolled and monitored parking I have ever seen. I see more fluoro-yellow-vested officers on scooters here than I had in my whole 18 years before moving to Dunedin.

Some people probably think we should stop complaining, and just walk to the gym, or that $1 an hour is a small price to pay for parking, especially when in Dunedin parking can be up to $3 an hour.

These people would be right, because obviously we could walk to Unipol and $1 an hour is minimal. But what gets to me about the whole thing is more the inconvenience. Walking to Unipol from where I live takes close to 30 minutes, making it nearly an hour's excursion just getting there and back.

There are probably few who can dedicate an hour to get to and from the gym, and so this alone is enough at especially busy times to make you avoid the trip. In order to go to the gym now, we either have to get there really early and park down the side street, or pay about $2 to go in the car park.

Daily, $2 adds up to quite a lot, and to have this ready in coins is a huge ask, as New Zealand is such an eftpos nation that lots of us don't carry cash anymore.

There is of course, the option of debit cards, which not everyone has, so it ends up the same person ends up paying each time more often than not. Although $1 an hour isn't much to pay, I know in the past pay-and-display has turned me from driving to walking many times as I personally find it can be more hassle than it's worth.

It is only now, where walking is not always on the cards and coins are scarce, that parking is really an issue. It may have been too good to be true, that Unipol's parking was always free to us, but we all definitely got used to that fact.

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