Free car parks will continue beyond June

Figures from REINZ show the median price for houses sold in the Waitaki district has risen from ...
Oamaru. Photo: ODT files
Oamaru residents will continue to enjoy free parking beyond the end of June.

Exactly how that would be funded caused some controversy around the Waitaki District Council table yesterday, after councillors rejected the option to fund the initiative to October 1 through the council’s recently introduced $2million support and stimulus fund.

It will instead be paid for by parking reserves, which will go into deficit as a result.

That drew the ire of Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher, who moved the favoured option, but described the initial recommendation’s dismissal as "disappointing" and a lost opportunity to use the fund for what it was designed to do post-Covid-19.

His comment came after concerns were raised by several councillors as to whether it was appropriate.

Parking in the town’s central business district has been free since April 1 as a way of encouraging people to come back to the area post-Covid-19.

Council regulatory manager Andrew Bardsley said feedback from business owners in regards to free parking had been positive, and that there was a desire for it to continue.

Few issues had been noted, with only a small number of complaints about vehicles being parked in metered or time-limited spaces for several hours.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said free parking was a complex issue.

"I think the really important thing with this is we are doing this to help local businesses ... if these business owners or their staff are taking up these car parks, that is a major problem because they are defeating the purpose of doing this."

A report by Mr Bardsley said since the introduction of free parking the council’s estimated loss in revenue was $63,000, based on same-month comparisons of 2019 parking machine revenue. It would lose on average $21,000 each month of free parking.

The council had saved more than $17,000 on parking meter maintenance costs, which had partially offset the loss.

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