Business owners celebrate free Tauranga parking

Bill Campbell is pleased parking in the CBD is finally free. Photo: John Borren.

After a 12 year fight a Tauranga business owner finally feels vindicated.

Bill Campbell has been pushing for free parking in the Tauranga CBD since he and his wife, Francis, opened their gift store, Fancy That.

His toil has paid off – The Tauranga CBD now has two hours free on-street parking.

Parking areas on Willow Street, Hamilton Street and behind Devonport Road with access from Elizabeth Street are also free for two hours.

Tauranga City Council are trialling the free parking until November and time restrictions will be enforced to help keep parking spaces available for shoppers and business customers.

“I'm chuffed. I'll take some credit for it, but certainly, there's been lots of others,” says Bill.

“I'm going home tonight to have a quiet glass and sit back and say: ‘well, we've achieved something for the day even if we haven't made any money’.

“It’s the best thing we've had for a long time and we need something I can promise you that. It’s pretty quiet.”

The Tauranga CBD has seen a decline in foot traffic for a number of years, says Bill.

The foot traffic counter on Devonport Road counts about 1500 people a day compared to the 20,000 people that go through Bayfair daily.

A number of businesses on Devonport Road have closed in recent months including clothing retailers moochi, Annah Stretton, Just Jeans, and jewellers Michael Hill, and men’s fashion store Hallenstein Brothers is also preparing to close.

Bill would have liked the parking to be free for three hours and thinks the trial should be for 12 months rather than four.

He also wants to see the free parking apply to more off-street parking areas as well because there isn’t enough street parking but concedes it is a good start.

“It gives people another option. They can come to us because they want to, rather than they have to.”

Councillors Dawn Kiddie and Andrew Hollis backed Bill and pushed council to support the move when they voted on it in last week’s meeting. The CBD needs help especially after COVID-19, says Kiddie.

“I do not believe we have felt anywhere near the effects of COVID yet, but it's going to come in October, November, and then pre-Christmas.

“What we need to be doing now is doing what we can to help the businesses right here, right now. They are struggling, downtown Tauranga is struggling.

“The least we can do is make it easy for people that do want to come into the CBD to get a park for free.”

Mayor Tenby Powell is also behind the free parking.

“I think we've got to find any mechanisms right now that we can do to stimulate and activate downtown Tauranga.

“I have never understood the lack of standardisation between the Mount, Greerton and Tauranga. I don't understand why it's free parking at the Mount and it's paid parking in Tauranga. I find that very inconsistent.

“This is some way of at least addressing that at a time when the Tauranga CBD is at its worst.”

Downtown Tauranga chairperson Brian Berry says the challenge now is changing people’s perception about the CBD.

“There's still the perception out in the community that you stay away from the CBD because accessibility's really difficult.

“We need to alter the perception out there and we've got to put ourselves on a level footing with the suburban shopping centres.

“The free parking is actually a really strong starting point for that.

“A quick sort of silver bullet is the free parking because that's something that's easy to communicate to the community and perhaps motivate them to actually come back in and have a look.”

There is currently a loophole with the CBD parking time limit at three hours so people can park for free that whole time. This will change to two hours in August when the Traffic and Parking Bylaw 2012 has been amended.

Council staff will monitor the effect of the trial and report back to council on November 30.

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Posted on 28-07-2020 13:08 | By morepork

Your point that the businesses you mention are flourishing elsewhere is a fair one. I think that CBD rents need to be controlled and maybe linked to turnover. Give people a rent holiday for a startup period, then they pay a reasonable "base" rent that covers fixed costs, then a percentage of their turnover as the business becomes established. If the business proves non-viable they leave, and the process starts with someone else. The idea is not to cripple businesses with high rents, and to ensure that landlords get a steady and reasonable return, with property upkeep covered. Overall there should be more revenue in rents because there will be more businesses running.

@By Informed

Posted on 28-07-2020 10:14 | By Accountable

What a load of dribble. The CBD in Tauranga was a very viable area until Council allowed the development of suburban malls. Insisting on parking charges when every other shopping centre, be it private or Council owned, offered ample, accessible free parking. Parking charges are a great income for Council at the expense of the public that support the CBD but because of those charges there are less and less people supporting the area. To say that businesses such as Hallensteins, Glassons, Michael Hill, Moochi, AMI, Pascoes, Whitcoulls, Stevens and many more are poorly run shows that you have no idea of how retail works. All these businesses are still successful elsewhere but not in the Tauranga CBD. Tauranga doesn’t have the population to support all the retail that is available and with them all having the free parking option what show does the CBD have? Absolutely none.

Fooling themselves

Posted on 27-07-2020 19:36 | By Informed

No wonder these businesses are failing. They think their problem is “free parking in Tauranga CBD”. This cycle of large malls, ripping apart CBD’s has been going on for 40 years. Lots of CBD’s have thrived. But it wasn’t through free parking, nor was it waiting for a council to show them how to run a successful business. But now the rate payers will suffer a little more just to make up for them not knowing how to run a business.

A good step.

Posted on 27-07-2020 16:52 | By morepork

I have ventured downtown again for the first time in a long while. There are still too many empty shops, but this is a good start.

CBD help

Posted on 27-07-2020 14:00 | By hapukafin

counted 28 vacant shops in Devonport rd yesterday.Going to need more help to fill thes vacancies

Lets get more Retailers

Posted on 27-07-2020 13:15 | By Lvdw

Free parking is a start yes. How about some more retailers? The shops on the main street are looking pretty grim. 1 in every 3 or 4 have someone in them. Who wants to come into the CBD without shops to shop at? Yes, Bayfair and The Crossing will get more foot traffic. Free parking, huge variety of entertainment, food and shopping available. Its a no brainer really. Come on landlords - pull your head out of your ... See the light now would ya.

Positive news

Posted on 27-07-2020 13:02 | By The Sage

Let’s hope all the workers don’t park there and block the people shopping.

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