Proposed parking hike a “poor tax”

Proposed parking hike a “poor tax”

Residents' parking set for an increase. Photo: Shannon Johnstone.

Wellington City Council’s proposed increase in residents’ parking is a “stealth poor tax”  Mt Cook resident Sophia Grey told Shannon Johnstone.

Grey is strongly against the increase. “This seems like a cop-out, ‘easy’ way of collecting revenue for the council and placing it back on everyday people who are held over a barrel regarding their choices because of where they live. [This] is just underhanded and shows how little they care about actually improving or benefiting the lives of normal Wellingtonians”.

She believes the changes are a “stealth poor tax” which will force those who cannot afford to live close to the city further out making the suburbs surrounding the CBD more gentrified.

The council has proposed to increase metered, coupon, and resident parking by 12.5-75% for the city by July this year, and does not see the large increase as unaffordable for residents. The resident’s parking permit  is increasing from $126.50 to $195 a year. Similarly, residents in coupon parking areas who pay for exemption permits are looking at paying an extra $48.50.

Additionally, coupon parking on the fringe areas of the CBD, including residential areas, will increase from $8.50 a day to $12, or from $135 a month to $200.

The 60-minute free parking zone in upper Cuba Street will become a 120-minute metered parking zone and will be $3.50 an hour, Monday-Thursday 8am-6pm and until 8pm on a Friday and $2.50 an hour on weekends 8am-6pm. Metered parking in the CBD, currently $3 per hour, will go up by 50c as will parking which is currently $4 an hour. Areas on the city fringe such as Cambridge and Kent Terraces and Thorndon Quay will go from $1.50 to $2.50.

Councillor Chris Calvi-Freeman gave five main reasons for the increase: costs haven’t kept up with inflation; parking being a fully private benefit; rates would have to go up otherwise; it sends a signal about car ownership; and the city’s roads being unable to keep up with an increase of vehicles.

The council’s position is that parking is a private benefit and that those who use it should have to pay for the increasing costs as opposed to increasing rates. “Who should pay? those who benefit, or everyone? And the council thinks it is those who benefit,” said Calvi-Freeman

Compared to a smaller city such as Palmerston North, the cost of owning a car in Wellington is substantially higher. Fuel prices, according to price watch, average at $2.04 for 91 compared to the current $2.34 in Wellington. Basic third-party insurance for a mid-2000s age car in a residential Wellington suburb close to the CBD costs $235. The same policy in a Palmerston North suburb close to the CBD costs $176 a year.

When comparing Wellington to the larger city of Auckland, Wellingtonians pay more. Auckland currently charges $70 annually for a resident’s permit in the limited areas of the scheme’s operation. The price of petrol in Auckland, according to price watch, at the time of writing was $2.19.

The increase to the resident’s parking in Wellington is 50%. “Even though there is a percentage increase which has been quite large, we [the Council] feel that the scheme is affordable and reasonable for those people who use it, said Calvi-Freeman

Grey: “It is fundamentally a change that is being proposed by out-of-touch rich, white, middle-aged incumbents, who are so disconnected from what reality is for normal people in this city that they think that this price increase is not expensive and [is] totally justified”.

With the crippling rise in rent prices, many residents were moving further from the CBD. However, the poor bus system limited affordable transport options.  “Had I the choice, I would vehemently not live in Wellington, ” said Grey

According to the council, the purpose of the increase is also to send a signal about whether car ownership is necessary for people in Wellington. “You’ll find now with a four-bedroom house there’ll be four cars, and just maybe they don’t need four cars. These cars may not move very much at all,” said Calvi-Freeman.

Although public transport had issues, it was still a working alternative to driving, as was car share services, car hire services, walking, cycling, and e-scootering.

“While people argue that they are not wealthy if they own a car, or that they absolutely have to have a car to get to work, we are dealing with inner city areas which by-in-large are reasonably serviced by public transport, and are reasonably walkable.”

Grey responded” “I don’t feel like anyone should have to justify to the council why I have the right to own a car. That feels like a gross invasion of privacy. There is no allowance for people in different circumstances – how else would you do the shopping with three kids, the bus? It is pretty sad that the people who are saying that this is ‘cheap so you should stop complaining’ just don’t have a shred of empathy.”

The proposal was announced on April 16 with public submissions open until the May 8. Calvi-Freeman said submissions would be considered carefully but that it would “not be treated as a referendum”.

 

 

 

 

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Article by Jim Tully

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