Ratepayers may help with parking in the central city

BUSTLING: A new report on central city reduced fee parking was discussed by the central city behind closed doors.

Secret discussions have been held over how to fix parking problems in the central city which could come at a cost to ratepayers.

City councillors met last week behind-closed-doors to consider a report on “central city reduced fee parking.”

The city council has refused to release the report to The Star, or answer questions about it.

It was deemed “commercially sensitive” for the public and city councillors remain tight-lipped about what the report proposes.

But The Star has learned that private car park owners and developers have been approached to see what role they can play.

Central city retailers have been struggling to compete with suburban malls which offer free parking.

But property developer Antony Gough, who is building a 400-space parking building on Hereford St, said there has been discussion with the council around rates rebates or subsides for private providers.

“We’re trying to encourage them to talk to us about that. Nothing has been finalised, but we expect them to,” he said.

There were “various ways” being investigated to help reduce the cost and encourage people back into the CBD, Mr Gough said. The city council’s Lichfield St and Art Gallery parking buildings are free for the first hour. After that it’s $2.80 at Lichfield St and $1 per half hour at the Art Gallery.

In comparison, it costs $2 to park in The Crossing for two hours and $2 per half hour thereafter.

The report was left on the table without a recommendation being approved and will be debated again by city councillors.

But city councillors Aaron Keown, Sara Templeton, Yani Johanson and Mike Davidson voted against it being debated in secret.

Cr Keown said the report covered the “way forward” for parking in the central city. But would not go into the specifics while the report was publicly excluded.

“It’s ratepayer money so you have to tell them the reasons why you’re spending it . . . what I can say is every single option is being investigated to get people back in town and using every single parking space available.”

Cr Davidson said parts of the report should be discussed separately.

“We should have had the chance to discuss the substantive issue without going into the detail and separate out the PX [publicly excluded] reports.”

Central Ward city councillor Deon Swiggs supported it being publicly excluded.

It was “vital” the right decision is made to encourage people back into the central city, he said.

“We need to balance what’s good for the city and be completely over top of that, otherwise we may miss an opportunity here.”

Central City Business Association chairman Brendan Chase said it hadn’t been involved in the discussion.

However, cheaper parking in the Lichfield St building had been good for businesses.

“If you reduce the price, you increase the occupancy

. . . for us, it’s about getting the pedestrians who park their cars. It’s pedestrians who are shopping, not the cars,” he said.