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'Big carrot needed': Restuarateur Grahem McCarthy

By PHILIP CHANDLER

Queenstown’s council’s resisting pleas to institute free parking in the resort’s CBD to help businesses suffering from the Covid-19-induced crisis.

Restaurateur Graham McCarthy says CBD businesses now need local customers with the tourist trade, which they almost solely relied on, having been hammered.

“And to get locals back into town, they need to have a big carrot.”

That carrot, he says, is free parking.

Business levels now are what he recalls in the ’90s, “and parking was all free”.

“Now we’ve got loads more competition in town so it’s a ’90s market with a 2020 volume of businesses to soak it up.”

Local landlord and former pharmacist Kim Wilkinson supports free parking to make the CBD more attractive to people, at least over the next two months.

“We’ve always competed with the likes of Remarkables Park and Five Mile that offer free parking, so this is one way of reducing some of the barriers to coming in to town.”

Mayor Jim Boult says the issue’s been discussed “at some length” with staff over recent weeks.

“One of the key roles in parking charges is to help keep parks turning over so more people can access them, while the proven problem with free downtown parking is they get quickly filled up with business owners and staff, and the actual available parks get really badly reduced.

“Making it easy to park rather than making it free to park is the approach we’ve adopted.

“With fewer people working in town, we consider there is an ample range of parking options for visitors, and in the evening the two big off-street carparks at Ballarat and Boundary Streets are free anyway to cope with night-time visitors.”

Boult says parking charges are also used to encourage use of the $2 buses, which have been free since the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown.

“This is a great time to reinforce the public transport message and habit at no cost, rather than allowing all that good work to slide back towards car-based travel into the town centre.”

scoop@scene.co.nz