Christchurch City Council Transport Operations Manager Aaron Haymes said the council was under pressure to update the meters now rather than in two or three years as planned.
"We think some time in the future we won't actually need machines on the streets because most people will elect to pay for parking with smart phones."
The nearly 240 meters in Christchurch produced 1.5 million tickets every year, which was 800 kg of paper, Haymes said.
If the meters were not upgraded, EMV or "smart cards" would have stopped working, with cash payments becoming the only option. The council had the option to replace parking meters with a different system, which was almost $100,000 cheaper, but would have continued to produce paper tickets .
Haymes said the choice to switch to paper-free would save the city $50,000 a year in operating costs, which would cover the extra cost for this system within two years.
"It's more convenient for people because they can walk to the machine, put in their license plate number and pay and then just walk away, they don't have to go back to their car."
Parking wardens will use apps on their phones to check number plates and see if the vehicle owner has paid for parking. Fines will be distributed the same way however, so will still be paper based.
Haymes said staff would be on the streets to assist with the new machines and wardens would be understanding of teething mistakes while people got used to them. If a number plate was entered with one number or letter wrong, a parking warden would not fine vehicle owners.
"We're recommending that people take a photo of their plate on their phone, so they don't get the machine and have to return to their car to check the number."
Tauranga already has paperless meters and they are being installed in Auckland. The first of these machines will be installed in Christchurch next week.