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Half-empty: Untenanted carparks in Queenstown's Athol Street yesterday afternoon, where the rate's $4 per hour

By PHILIP CHANDLER

A councillor’s wanting to trial free parking in Queenstown’s CBD to help the struggling hospo sector.

Councillor Val Miller’s suggesting temporarily waiving parking charges from 4.30pm every day — currently, metered parking runs till 9pm.

‘‘We want to encourage people to be using the bars and restaurants, so it would be a good gesture to the hospitality industry.

‘‘I think particularly in the evening it should be free parking, but zones like taxi stands and loading zones should still be recognised.’’

It’d just be till the town got busier, Miller says, ‘‘because it sure ain’t busy at the moment’’.

‘‘We’ll be getting stuff-all revenue at the moment because of the fact no one’s actually parking, and we could probably deploy the council workers who give out the tickets to go
and do something else.’’

Pushing for free parking trial: Councillor Val Miller

For a trial to go ahead, Miller’s also suggesting councillors waive some of the procedural steps they usually have to go through to adopt a new policy.

Her stance is supported by fellow Queenstown councillor Penny Clark.

‘‘With all the upheaval of the roadworks, as well, it’s just adding to a bit of pressure on our retailers and restaurants,’’ she says.

‘‘The minor amount of income we’ll be earning at the moment, I do not think it’s something we should be chasing.’’

Meanwhile, local tourism and hospitality consultant, and former boutique hotel owner  Louise Kiely’s clamouring for council to offer two to three hours’ free car parking ‘‘to fill the empty parks and encourage the wider community to come to downtown for a meal and shop’’.

‘‘It is essential to support the local businesses that have given life, vibrancy and a lot of rates to downtown Queenstown for so long.

‘‘Four dollars per hour or hefty $40-plus fines leave a sour taste for both locals and visitors.

‘‘The number of blocked-off roads makes it very difficult for most businesses already, surely this is one way of showing positive support.’’

In the past, council’s defended parking charges, even during the current downturn, as a means of encouraging people to use buses.

scoop@scene.co.nz