Council warns Dunedin central-city free parking on way out 

Dunedin commuters have been warned to expect the hunt for free, all-day parking to become increasingly difficult in the city centre. The comment by Dunedin City Council transport group manager Richard Saunders came as councillors at yesterday's full council meeting considered the latest round of proposed parking changes in the city.

The proposal, to be released for public consultation, would result in about 150 car parks around Dunedin Hospital, Otago Museum, the University of Otago and in Vogel St switched from free to $1 or $2-an-hour metered parks.

Time restrictions for most of the previously free parks would be dropped, except existing P5 and P30 spaces in Vogel St, meaning motorists would be able to pay up to $18 to stay all day.

The changes were designed to encourage greater turnover of car parks in under-pressure areas of the city, while also allowing people to stay longer - at extra cost.

Cr Lee Vandervis questioned Mr Saunders on the changes, asking what advice he had for commuters already forced to park further away from the central city.

Mr Saunders said there was no evidence all 150 car parks were used by commuters, but those who did could consider parking elsewhere, using public transport or car-pooling.

''Yes, it will become more difficult to find that in the centre of the city,'' he said.

Cr Vandervis was not impressed, saying the council was ''marginalising commuters who want to work in the central city, but are being made increasingly unwelcome there''.

The council needed to set a target of 400 to 500 new car parks each year, to cater for an increasing population and traffic congestion, or Dunedin's reputation as a ''10-minute city'' would be at risk, he said.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull disagreed, saying the council should set a goal of reducing car parks each year because of the benefits to public health and local businesses a move away from cars would deliver.

Cr Jim O'Malley said the latest proposals reflected the fact Dunedin was ''a city, not a town'', and was on the ''cusp'' of having to take a different approach to transport.

''If we go up in population, we have to have a system that takes everything into account. It's the start of what will be a series of steps we will have to take.''

Councillors - except Cr Vandervis - voted to approve the changes for public consultation, beginning on Monday and running for 15 working days.