Retailers want one-hour free parking reinstated for winter as part of a proposal to attract shoppers, but Christchurch's mayor is not convinced it is the answer.
The one-hour free parking initiative, which ran at Christchurch City Council's Lichfield St and Art Gallery car parks from November 2017 to January 31, was estimated to have cost $1 million.
"Free parking is not free. There is a foregone income, which if it was received could be allocated in a different way and attract more," Mayor Lianne Dalziel said.
One-hour free parking would help attract people to the city centre, rather than indoor malls, such as Westfield in Riccarton.
The council and the city's economic development and tourism agency ChristchurchNZ are trying to find ways to help central city retailers by attracting more shoppers into the area especially during winter.
Both organisations have developed a $280,000 ratepayer-funded winter package proposal.
Christchurch City councillors will discuss plans to keep people coming to the central city during winter, instead of sticking to indoor malls in the suburbs.
The package, which would be discussed by the council on Thursday, proposes to spend $130,000 on a marketing campaign, $80,000 on small scale events and another $70,000 employing an "activation co-ordinator".
However, some retailers believe the money could be better spent on one-hour free parking.
Scorpio Books owner David Cameron said he did not want to look a "gift horse in the mouth" but was concerned the council's plans would not work too well.
"Years ago Vicki Buck (the then Mayor) tried to revive the flagging central city with events and bands, but it just didn't help businesses at all."
Cameron said some events had the opposite effect because they distracted people from shopping.
"It's a difficult thing to get right."
He said the one-hour free car parking brought people in and was often mentioned by customers. He favoured the council reinstating the one-hour free parking.
"It's more directly aimed at people who want to come into the central city. They may be accustomed to free parking at the mall parking lots."
Central City Business Association manager Paul Lonsdale said businesses liked the free parking initiative and wanted it to continue, but he understood the council's decision to end it.
"I think it's been very helpful. It's provided that extra encouragement."
However, Dalziel said there was a big cost involved in providing free parking and she was not convinced of the initiative's value. It had been difficult to assess how many extra people had come into town as result of the free parking.
A council spokeswoman said the scheme cost about $1m after providing more than 390,000 hours of free parking at Lichfield St and more than 49,000 at the Art Gallery. It represented about 30 per cent of the total hours parked in both buildings.
Dalziel said she believed central city businesses needed some additional help this winter, but the city would become self sustaining once the multi-use arena and convention centre were completed.
She had yet to have a detailed look at the winter package report or talk to councillors about it, but she did want to see "more targeted discussions" with ChristchurchNZ and the business community about what would work.
"When I was a kid there were all sorts of competitions designed to bring people into town. Would a better use of $70,000 be the purchase of an electric car as a prize and run it over the winter period and everyone who spends money in the CBD can put their tickets into the draw? I don't know.
"We need to be working collaboratively with the business owners."
Infinite Definite owner Jono Moran said the most important thing was to get locals regularly engaging with the city again.
He said one-hour free parking would be useful but there was not a one answer solution.
"There is more parking than before the earthquakes. People think it's expensive but it's not."
Sweet Soul Patisserie owner Taina Scur said she was doing her best to bring people to the CBD and into her shop. but any extra help from the council would be appreciated.
She said parking was affordable but people liked the one-hour free because it encouraged them to come in for a quick shop or lunch.