Nelson mayor Rachel Reese prepares to put a sticker on a parking meter, announcing free parking in Nelson city. Photo: Andrew Board.

Free car parking

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It’s now up to locals to support our city. That’s the message from Nelson City Council after agreeing to make car parking free for a three month trial.

Nelson city retailers packed the  public gallery in the council chambers last Thursday, sending a clear message to councillors that they want a level playing field with Richmond retailers, who have enjoyed free car parking for years. Retailers said while the move wouldn’t be a “silver bullet”, it would go a long way to help them bring back shoppers.

Councillors agreed and decided to make car parking free in the city from today until September 30, but mayor Rachel Reese says she now expects to see the city “bustling”.

“It’s now up to local people to support their local shops. We’ve been hearing for some time that the lack of free parking is what keeps people away, so with that barrier removed we’ll look forward to seeing Nelson streets bustling.”

Retailers are ecstatic about the move and say it will help them get their customers coming back into the city, instead of doing their shopping in Richmond.

Uniquely Nelson manager Cathy Madigan spoke strongly at the council meeting about the benefits of free parking and admitted the Free Parking Tuesday promotion that had run for the past three years was a waste of time.

“It’s fantastic that the council has listened to retailers concerns and has agreed to support Nelson city with this free parking initiative over winter.

“We know people love Nelson city and we want to make it more enjoyable for them to experience the arts and culture, food and wine, fashion and shopping and, of course, the great al fresco café scene and our gorgeous sunny winter days. We’d love to see the city busy year round and this helps us toward achieving that.”

While parking is free from today, time limits still do apply, with a three hour limit for parking in Buxton and Montgomery car parks. The central area of Wakatu Square will remain as all-day paid parking, while the one hour parking spaces around the edge of the square will be free. Expired warrants, registration, and safety issues will still be enforced but a reminder might be issued in the first instance rather than a fine, says the council.

Morrison Square has also jumped on board with the council plan and its private car park will also be free for the three month period.

The overall financial impact of the trial will be reported back to the council’s governance committee once it is concluded. Councillors will then make a decision to either bring back paid parking or make the trial a permanent move.

Retailers spoken to by Nelson Weekly say they were delighted the council listened to what they had to say and hope it will help bring more people into the city.