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Residents say it’s time for a change

Parking on Perry St. PHOTO/ LAURA KVIGSTAD

Masterton’s coin parking is either a little piece of history, or stuck in the past, depending on your perspective. SHEA TURNER and LAURA KVIGSTAD asked the people of Masterton what they thought.
One of Masterton’s parking meters. PHOTO/ EMILY IRELAND

Masterton shoppers may have spotted journalists more accustomed to city streets huddled around one of the town’s coin-operated parking machines that dot the streets.

Muffled questions of ‘do they print tickets?’ and ‘where does the ticket come out?’ may have been heard by passersby.

Coin-operated parking is a relic of the past that may surprise anyone travelling from outside Masterton – the kind of quirk that you can only find in a small town.

It costs $1 an hour to park, and some people reported receiving $12 tickets when they were hit with a parking fine.

Some tourists from Christchurch said it was “a hell of a lot cheaper” than back home, but were visibly confused at the lack of a card option.

There’s a sense of frustration from visitors and locals that there isn’t an alternative form of payment for parking.

An overwhelming majority of people surveyed in Masterton support having EFTPOS available for parking – 47 of the 51 people surveyed said they supported having more parking options available.

The outliers for the results were from two people who said they preferred using coins.

Two others said they didn’t care because they always carried coins, not just for parking but for when their kids wanted a treat.

The sight of two men in uniform slowly making their way from meter to meter raises the nerves of the townspeople.

While some are prepared for the occasion, one woman said coin parking added a little bit of stress to her day.

She was scrambling to find change when she saw the parking attendant walking down the street.

She started by getting cash out. Then she went into several shops asking them to break the $20 note she had. All of them said no.

She ended up going to the bank, and while in line she thought to herself, “just my luck, they’ve probably already given me a ticket”.

Parking attendants were prowling Queen St at about midday, looking for unpaid parking.

It appeared you either fell into the camp of being prepared with coins in your car, or were making a mad dash to get something for the meter.

People who didn’t have coins were uneasy, saying as much when they stopped to talk.

Most were not inclined to share their names, afraid of any repercussions that could come from their illegal parking.

Residents said they were often left to speed shop to avoid getting fined.

“I never have cash on me. I always look for coins in the car, but there are none there. I just park up and do what I have to do quickly,” said one Masterton shopper.

It’s not uncommon for people to find themselves short of change either – 26 of 51 people surveyed in Masterton said they did not carry coins.

Covid-19 had brought further challenges to the parking debacle, with one lady admitting the new cashless norm of pandemic life had left her without coins for parking.

A man sitting down for a smoke laughed when asked if he carried change.

“Of course I don’t” he said. “I’ve only got EFTPOS, so when I see the parking guy walking around, I just make sure to jump in my car before he can give me a ticket. They’re missing out on a lot of revenue because of people like me.”

Chrissy Hey was rummaging in her bag looking for coins for the parking machine when approached.

She doesn’t always carry coins, and when asked if she worries when she doesn’t pay for parking, she said: “Of course I worry”.

While talking about the potential for more parking attendants, Hey said: “Spend ratepayer money on something better. People are struggling.”

Ted Bowsher had a similar thought: “It’s just a money-maker.”

Parking infringement revenue in Masterton is expected to be about $60,000 from January to June 30, and $105,000 across the year to June 30.

While most Masterton people were calling for more payment options, one said he did not trust EFTPOS and preferred using coins. He still supported other people having the option to use EFTPOS, though.

Two tradies nipping into the shops for a hard-earned smoko said that whether they paid depended on how quick a stop they were making.

They said free 15-minute parking would be a good option for the council, but they would definitely be more inclined to pay if there was a card option.

One woman thought parking in Masterton should be free because there was limited parking.

Another resident felt there were only two obvious options to move forward.

“Make it free or do it like Wellington does it,” he said, referring to Wellington City Council’s app-based system.

It appears Masterton District Council already has a sense that time’s up for coin-operated machines.

The Long-Term Plan includes $406,400 for replacement parking meters starting in 2022.

Masterton District Council spokesperson Steve Rendle said it was expected more consideration for different payment options would take place closer to the time.

The infringement revenue would not generate a surplus this year because costs would slightly exceed revenues.

“Enforcement is a means of encouraging turnover of parks,” Rendle said.

For now, it seems the people of Masterton will have to wait until next year before the council will make a move on coin parking.

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