One-hour free at Christchurch's publicly-owned parking buildings


A free hour of parking will be reinstated at the Christchurch City Council's two parking buildings for the winter.


The council decided on Thursday to make the first hour free at its Lichfield St and Art Gallery car parks between June 2 and August 31 as a way to encourage people to come into the city and support businesses following the Covid-19 crisis.


A bid to have two-hours free was lost nine votes to seven, despite mayor Lianne Dalziel pleading with councillors to vote for it.


"We are in unprecedented times. This is a temporary short-term band aid and I plead with councillors. I ask you to consider the two-hours free."

She said businesses in the city had invested on a Government promise that a convention centre, stadium and metro sports facility would be built by now.

"They invested ahead of it. We have an obligation as a city to make sure they survive."

However, other councillors believed one hour would still benefit businesses and would not have as big an impact on rates.

Cr Mike Davidson said there was no evidence to suggest having two hours free would provide more benefit than one hour.

"No matter how you spin this, it's going to impact rates, whether its one or two hours free. Are we just going to throw away revenue on something we have no evidence on?"

The one-hour free parking was estimated to cost the council $300,000 in lost revenue for the three months and two hours would be $600,000. The cost would be funded from rates.

Cr Aaron Keown questioned whether there would be an actual cost to the council because the figures were based on pre-Covid-19 parking numbers.

He suggested the council could end up making more money because free parking would encourage more people to use the building than might have post Covid-19.

"There may be technically no cost at all or a gain."

The council decided against making on-street parking free because it wanted to encourage people to use the parking buildings. Free on-street parking would have cost an additional $420,000 for one hour and $840,000 for two hours.

Prior to Covid-19, the car park had an occupancy rate of about 85 per cent and people parked there for about 1.5 hours on average.

Central City Business Association chairwoman Annabel Turley asked the council to adopt two hours' free parking across all central city parking buildings. 

She said offering free parking at only council-owned buildings could be seen an anti-competitive.

After the meeting, Turley said it was disappointing the council had decided to do only one hour and not two.

"One hour does not give people enough time to come in and enjoy the city."

The council offered one-hour free parking, at its Lichfield St and Art Gallery parks between November 2017 and January 31, 2019. The initiative, estimated to have cost $1 million, was popular with retailers in the area.

The council stopped charging for parking during the Covid-19 lockdown and has yet to reinstate fees, which has led to workers nabbing the parks before shoppers get a chance.