CODC: Free parking era may be coming to an end
While its neighbouring council racks up millions of dollars in revenue a year from parking fines, the Central Otago District Council receives zilch.
In fact, it doesn’t have anyone policing its bylaws related to parking.
A spokesperson for the council says it has no parking enforcement officers.
So, while blue parking restriction signs may exist in the district’s main urban centres, there’s no one penalising parkers who aren’t following the rules.
Among them, the council itself.
Over the summer holiday break, more than half-a-dozen council vehicles were parked long-term in the public car park behind Cromwell's library and council service centre that has a two-hour parking restriction.
The carpark has approximately 25 available spaces, with four spots reserved for council vehicles.
The lack of enforcement of parking restrictions across the district is a frustration for many residents, especially in growing Cromwell, where competition for parking spots at the town’s central mall is increasingly fierce.
It’s left deputy mayor and Cromwell councillor Neil Gillespie wondering how proposed changes to the district’s roading bylaw related to parking will be received by residents and ratepayers.
At today’s council meeting, the CODC's given go-ahead for public consultation on several amendments to its rules for roads.
The current roading bylaw was adopted in November 2020, and the proposed tweaks will restrict parking on footpaths and cycle ways and update infringement fees – those same infringement fees that currently aren’t policed in any way – so they align with those stipulated in national laws.
“As part of this consultation process, I feel sure we’ll get feedback about enforcement, or the lack thereof,” the deputy mayor says.
Speaking at the meeting CODC infrastructure and planning boss Louise van der Voort says council staff are aware of “the strain on some of the car parking in some areas and we’ve actually had it suggested to us we need to get on and enforce it”.
In addition to the bylaw update pushed forward by councillors today, the council is working to update its systems to ensure the authority has teeth when it comes to enforcing existing and future parking rules.
“Council staff are currently updating systems to enable more efficient and automated processes for issuing, processing and payment of infringements, and working on an enforcement strategy and education plan in preparation for proposed changes,” a council spokesperson says.
However one local retailer in the Cromwell mall says parking restrictions and enforcement of them are less of an issue than the availability of parking itself.
“There’s just no car parking; there’s nothing. It’s terrible, and just enforcing car parking is not going to solve the problem.
“It’s like putting a band aid on it. Fix the big problem; don’t just cover it up.”
Two councillors at today’s meeting also voiced concerns about where some locals will park if verge-parking, generally accepted practice for now across much of the district, is a no-go.
Plan Change 19’s also on the agenda and if successful the district may see sections in some neighbourhoods increasingly decrease in size, squeezing out space for garaging and off-street parking, with no corresponding reduction in need for private vehicles.
Councillor Tracy Paterson says the bylaw amendments are going to “hit people in Alexandra and Cromwell the most”.
She reckons so many people park on verges she’s “not sure how you’re going to police that”.
Unless the council is able to consistently enforce the bylaw, it will open itself up for "some criticism”, she says.
Councillor Martin McPherson says in his family there’s five teenage boys and seven cars.
“Mostly, they’re on the verge.”
CODC infrastructure manager Quinton Penniall says the council’s receiving an increasing number of complaints about people parking over footpaths – with boats and caravans among the culprits.
It’s “unsafe”, he says.
The proposed changes to the roading bylaw will open for public feedback on January 30, and people have until February 27 to have their say.
More information will be available on the council’s new online engagement platform Let’s Talk.
Last year, Crux reported the Queenstown Lakes District Council had issued close to 125,000 parking infringements over approximately three years from January 2019 to December 2021, generating more than $5 million in revenue.
A further $6.6 million was collected through parking meters and the issuing of parking permits.