Hospitality businesses in Tauranga’s CBD are “fuming” as 147 waterfront car parks are set to be turned into a green space.
A bar owner says closing the parking area just before summer will be “the worst thing” for businesses, and a real estate leader says the change will be the “death nail” for the “dying” CBD and his business might move.
Tauranga City Council says The Strand waterfront car park is closing on Monday for the area to be transformed into a green reserve and playground. It is expected to be under construction until mid-2024.
The council says redeveloping this “prime waterfront location” is important for Tauranga CBD’s revitalisation and will be a “drawcard” for locals and visitors.
It says new parks have been added nearby and the number of spots in the city centre will “will largely remain the same” once work on the Spring St parking building ends.
In under a week, however, more than 1000 people have signed an online petition expressing “concern and opposition” to the closure of “one of the city centre’s most vital car parking spaces”.
It was started by Mainstreet Tauranga chairwoman and Miss Gee’s Bar and Eatery owner Ashleigh Gee on Friday.
The petition said the closure would have a “detrimental” impact on city businesses, many of which had already faced disruption due to construction and Covid-19.
“Now, more than ever, they depend on accessible and convenient parking options to attract customers and thrive.”
It asked the council to reconsider the “timing and necessity” of the closure and to delay it until alternative parking options were available.
“We are not against the redevelopment of our city centre for the future, however, better planning and consideration of business owners and the people who directly impact the city’s economy is required.”
Gee told the Bay of Plenty Times many customers and city workers relied on the car park, including her own.
“Taking away that area is just going to be a nightmare for businesses and being able to trade.”
She said there were “ongoing comments” from people saying the lack of parking meant they did not go to the CBD.
“We think that taking away another 150 car parks just before summer is just the worst thing that we can do for businesses and the vibrancy of the city centre.”
Crown and Badger pub owner Jessica Rafferty said she was “fuming” about the loss of car parks.
“We don’t have enough car parks in the city as it is.”
Rafferty said people “regularly” cancelled reservations because they could not find a car park.
“We need those car parks – we can’t afford to not have them.”
Owner of But First Dessert, Adele De’Arth, said the closure would “hugely” impact CBD hospitality businesses.
In her view, there was “absolutely no need” for the reserve and playground, as there was “plenty of green space” along The Strand.
“Less accessibility means less visitors to The Strand who tend to wander up Devonport Rd after their lunch/dinner to visit my business for dessert and others up near us.”
De’Arth said she was already experiencing a “downturn” due to CBD construction and losing parking was “incredibly frustrating”.
“So many of us desperately need a busy summer.”
Bay of Plenty-based managing partner of New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty Hayden Duncan said Tauranga’s public transport system was not “reliable or consistent enough” for workers in the service industry.
“The majority of our customers now are choosing for us to come and visit them rather than come in here.”
He said Tauranga CBD had been “dying” and “now we’re just putting a death nail in it”.
“It certainly got us to the point where we’re considering relocation.”
Tauranga City Council city development and partnerships general manager Gareth Wallis said the council appreciated people had found the car park convenient but redeveloping this “prime waterfront location” was important for the city’s revitalisation.
He said the new playground and green space would be a “drawcard” for events and community gatherings.
Transforming the waterfront would also “protect and improve access” to Te Awanui Tauranga Harbour and would complement the future civic precinct, making it a place where people could be proud of and “uniquely Tauranga”.
He said the sooner the work could be done, the sooner it could get the area of the city “pumping again” so everyone, including local businesses, could benefit.
Wallis said more than 2000 parking spaces were available in the city centre. Off-street parking locations included the newly upgraded Dive Crescent car park where there were now more than 100 parks available with about 50 additional car parks coming by the end of the year.
The Harrington/Hamilton St car park with more than 200 car parks would also be available next year, he said.
The Spring St and Elizabeth St parking buildings had more than 700 spaces combined. Parking was also available at Cliff Rd and on the corner of Wharf and Durham Sts.
Once seismic strengthening was completed at the Spring St parking building and it returned to full capacity, the number of available parking spaces in the city centre “will largely remain the same”, he said.
Megan Wilson is a health and general news reporter for the Bay of Plenty Times and Rotorua Daily Post. She has been a journalist since 2021.