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Free on-street parking in central Queenstown will begin three hours earlier than usual from Wednesday next week following a growing community clamour for the move.
Free parking usually starts at 9pm in the resort’s town centre, but was brought forward to 6pm, with no time restrictions, at a meeting of the Queenstown Lakes District Council’s traffic and parking subcommittee on Thursday.
It follows a call by Crs Val Miller and Penny Clark last month to start free parking at 4.30pm as a gesture of support for hospitality businesses.
In his report for the committee, roading operations and contracts manager Ben Greenwood said on-street parking in the town centre was "not at full capacity" because of reduced visitor numbers since borders were closed in response to Covid-19.
The change, which was being introduced "to encourage diners, not workers", would not affect taxi ranks and loading zones, Mr Greenwood said.
Committee chairman Quentin Smith said the change was needed because the purpose of the council’s parking strategy was to support businesses, which had been under stress.
Finance manager Stewart Burns said the council had to be alert to "unintended consequences" from the change, because town centre workers were likely to use the parks.
He asked if a review should be scheduled.
Property and infrastructure manager Pete Hansby responded that that was unnecessary as occupancy rates for the parking spaces were being continually monitored.
"I think we can respond very quickly if there’s adverse behaviour."
Council spokesman Jack Barlow said the required changes to signs and parking machines would be completed on Wednesday, and the change would be effective from 6pm that day.