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Free parking scheme to end

Jessica Swan
james gough
Christchurch city councilor James Gough  Facebook

City councillors split on how to support city businesses as free parking scheme fails.

City councillors have voted 10 to six not to extend a first-hour-free parking scheme, which has been in place at the Lichfield St and Art Gallery parking buildings since June.

The scheme will end on August 31.

It had cost ratepayers $195,000 and only brought 395 more cars into the central city compared to the same time period last year.

In spite of those figures, city councillor James Gough argued for the scheme to be extended.

At Thursday's Christchurch City Council meeting, Gough said the success of the free parking scheme should not be measured in numbers.

Making it easier and more affordable for people to come to the city was "just the right signal to send", he said.

Gough said Covid-19 restrictions would have had an impact on the number of people taking advantage of the free parking. The council staff recommendation to end the free parking scheme lacked consideration of the current alert level restrictions, he said.

Free parking was "right thing to do" to support he city's hospitality and retail sectors, Gough said.


James Gough - Free parking scheme ending

James Gough said the council is sending the wrong message to local businesses by ending the free-parking scheme.

Councillor Tim Scandrett agreed that keeping free parking was about sending a message to central city retailers. He said when businesses were "sweating", council needed to show support.

However, councillor Sara Templeton said the city should focus on attracting people to its centre, regardless of their means of transport.

She said the parking incentive was a small gesture. Prizes and draws would be more effective in getting people to the central city post-lockdown, Templeton said.

"[There are] many better ways to encourage a greater spend in the central city and they involve focusing on the activities people want to do, not focusing on how they want to get there."

Councillor Anne Galloway said council had been given full responsibility for something that should be a shared load.

The council-funded Central City Business Association (CCBA) needed to lead the way, Galloway said. 

She said the city should move on from ideas that did not achieve what was intended.

"It’s time for the CCBA, who we fund, to lead with some new and exciting initiatives to bring people into our city."