Why are we still punishing people for coming to the CBD?

As I took a quick stroll today through the CBD the only sound was the hollow squawk of our most unwanted quests, the seagulls, there was not a person in sight.

Such is the tale of the Rotorua CBD and it’s decline that’s only been hastened by the goings on of 2020.

Looking out the door of my shop on Friday afternoon 3 weeks out from Christmas it was hard to avoid the obvious, hardly a car parked on Tutanekai Street.

The retailers that are left in the CBD must rightly be wondering if Christmas will arrive this year, but more so, what does 2021 hold for the CBD.

CBD decline is not just Rotorua’s problem, many towns and cities throughout the world saw a rapid expansion in malls though the 90s and a subsequent decline in main street patronage.

It’s my belief that had Council’s been more proactive at the time they could have stopped the rapid evacuation of retiallers, CBD’s used to have everything the malls had except the free parking. The CBD through the 60’s,70s and 80’s had the small boutique stores, the cafes, the big box retailers and a busy vibe – but because it was the only place to shop in town charging for parking was introduced initially to encourage car park turnover but eventually became like a shot of heroin for Council’s that, when times changed, just couldn’t give up the dollars.

When your competitors can offer retailers and shoppers the convenience of free parking with no fines or penalties, how could the CBD compete.

Maybe this view is a little simplistic but fast forward to 2020/21 - when we take a good look at the parking in the CBD we’re still doing things the same way as we were in the 60’s.

Sure the way in which you pay, and the amount you’re fined has changed - but we’re still punishing people for coming to the CBD.

The Rotorua Council contracted out their parking services 2 years ago to little known iPark on the back of modernizing parking in the CBD but the truth is that all they have done is modernized the way to bill and fine people, they haven’t taken a look at the CBD and usage change since the heyday of the 60’s.

iPark and their ability to manage parking in the CBD has been a constant source of news since taking over the service.

From their website privacy issues (now fixed) that I wrote about here Parking privacy issues
to the iShark car that circles the CBD that can only be described at the ‘pokie machine’ of parking enforcement, looking for people who, every day, make the decision between putting a rego on their car or feeding their family, the iShark goes out of its way to be the biggest burden on those who can least afford it. Is iPark the future of parking in Rotoura?

The iShark certainly doesn’t work issuing parking tickets, all it does is takes a snapshot in time with absolutely idea of what happens in between. Let’s say you park outside my shop to drop something off and the iShark takes a picture of your car, you then leave – you come back to the same park 3 hours later. The iShark takes a picture of you in the same park this triggers a parking warden to be dispatched to give you a ticket. The iShark has no idea that you haven’t been in that park all that time, it’s a very poor system and Rotorua deserves better.

The CBD is a distant 3rd for shoppers looking for retail locations in Rotoura, it’s been a good 10 years since the big box stores deserted the area and there’s little chance of them coming back, yet we seem determined the believe that the CBD is Rotorua’s retail centre.

Realty is that the CBD has become a hub for service organizations, yes there will always be a smattering of boutique retailers but acknowledging the shift away from retail allows us to think about the requirements for parking in the CBD into the future.

As part of the iPark changes several years ago a significant amount of free all day parking on the periphery of the CBD was changed short term paid parking, CBD parking areas such as area opposite the library has been given away by the council even when fully utilized at the time. And let’s not forget the loss of parking to the cycle way.

Currently if you park on one half of Eruera Street and go over time you are fined $12 on the other half you’re charged $40 – it’s just insanity why would you do this to your own people?

Surely, we can see that all of this is simply a deterrent to not only people coming to town but businesses wanting to set up there too.

The parking system is broken, it’s about time we fixed it. Let’s stop punishing people for coming to town and recognize the changed use of the CBD. We really need to think about an effective way to manage our parking resource not just come up with new ways to fine people.

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