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Auckland’s Unitary Plan: To park or not park

Car parking is one of the more controversial aspects of the Unitary Plan decision version.

 In Metropolitan, Town and Local Centres, and in the Mixed Use Zone, minimum car parking requirements have been removed and maximums have been imposed.

As Auckland Council’s John Duguid explains, the removal of minimum parking rates means on-site parking is not required, allowing for more efficient use of land, encouraging better urban design outcomes and supporting public transport.

The parking maximums involve limiting the amount of on-site parking with new developments, managing the oversupply of parking and, in turn, reducing traffic congestion.

“We don’t want to get to the point where there’s so much parking, it’s undermining public transport,” Duguid says.

This approach has been in Auckland’s CBD for a number of years and will continue there, he says. He says private retail operators can manage their on-site parking by enforcing time restrictions and pricing, in the same way Auckland Transport will.

Auckland Council’s Jeremy Wyatt says the car parking minimums used to be a barrier to development, particularly on smaller sites with no room for parking. The new rules allow more flexibility.

“We are going to be able, potentially, to open up more development for retail because they don’t have to have parking,” he says.

The developers will still have to pay developer contributions, with the money going towards public transport or public car parks.

Large retailers like supermarkets – which rely on car parking for their core business – will still be able to provide ample car parking under the maximum rules, Wyatt says.

The removal of minimum parking requirements and maximum limits was not supported by the Key Retailers Group at submission stage. The rules have been appealed by the National Trading Company (the property holder of Foodstuffs) and Kiwi Property (the company behind Sylvia Park). The lack of minimum parking requirements has also been appealed by Progressive Enterprises and individual appellant K. Vernon.

In its appeal, the National Trading Company says without the minimum rules, businesses will use communally available car parking, with their customers potentially “freeloading” by using car parking at shopping centres or large format stores.

Companies who choose to control access to their car parks risk alienating their customers and the overall lack of parking could drive shoppers out of the centres, to where there is adequate parking, the company says.

But urban design specialist John Mackay says private parking can be adequately managed – and gives the example of the much-maligned Wilson Parking.

“I think the issue isn’t about car parking, it’s about a competitive advantage in property development.”

Removing minimum parking requirements could allow metropolitan and town centres to redevelop, much like Auckland CBD, which hasn’t been inhibited by such rules, he says.

“I think taking away the minimum car parking rules is an enormous game changer that could make an enormous difference.”

In the past, the rules have been punitive, making development physically impossible on most sites, and resulting in ‘horrible’ car parking structures that block the sun on the few sites where redevelopment has occurred, Mackay says.

The Unitary Plan helps Auckland move away from its focus on cars, potentially enabling town centres where people live in apartments and need to use their cars less, says Mackay – a self-confessed apartment-dweller.

“The alternative is Los Angeles, where there is motorway upon motorway and the worst road congestion. If we build a city based totally on cars, we’re making the congestion worse: there’s no end to it.”

This story originally appeared in NZ Retail magazine issue 746 October / November 2016

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