PARKING SLOT: Wellington City Council plans to install 4000 parking sensors across the city.

PARKING SLOT: Wellington City Council plans to install 4000 parking sensors across the city.

Thousands of sensors are to be installed around Wellington to keep an eye on parking overstayers.

A $1.4 million rollout of 4000 sensors across city car parks is being planned by the Wellington City Council. The move would allow wardens to get real-time information about where people are overstaying, although the council also says automated reminder messages and top-up options sent to people’s cellphones should mean fewer tickets being issued.

The move is one of the new projects in the council’s draft long-term plan, published today, which will be debated by a council committee next week.

The plan lays out a 3.9 per cent average rates increase over the next 10 years, and includes a $200m war chest to fund big-ticket items, including a 300-metre runway extension at Wellington Airport, a film museum, a new convention centre and an indoor arena.

FRIEND OR FOE: Sensors can also alert wardens but the council says the six-minute-grace will remain.

FRIEND OR FOE: Sensors can also alert wardens but the council says the six-minute-grace will remain.

Deputy mayor Justin Lester said that, provided the business cases stood up, all of those major projects should be completed in the next 10 years.

It was about growing Wellington, he said. “We invest in economic projects that we think can grow the city and make it an even better place to live.”

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said the plan was “ambitious, invests to grow in the capital’s economy and invests in our communities through maintaining a high level of services”.

The parking sensors plan is one of the few major projects that had not already been flagged by the council. It is reliant on the outcome of a $100,000 trial that began in the past two weeks when 70 sensors were installed on Allen St. A further 50 are planned for nearby Blair St.

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Early data from the trial suggested it was very successful, council spokesman Richard MacLean said.

Sensors were already used in New Plymouth and Palmerston North, but technology had moved on considerably, and the equipment proposed for Wellington could do much more, he said. Wellington’s network would also be much bigger if the sensors were installed across the CBD.

REAL TIME: A map of Allen St showing real-time availability of car parks.

REAL TIME: A map of Allen St showing real-time availability of car parks.

The sensors can tell cellphone or internet users where car parks are available and can be linked to online payment, allowing people to receive phone alerts when their time is about to run out and to top up their payments.

Lester said there would be more control put in the hands of motorists, through smartphone reminders.

The sensors will also alert wardens more quickly about overstayers. However, MacLean said they would still be keeping the six-minute-grace period currently in place.

“It’s not like we’re going to become ruthless . . . we can enforce in a more considered kind of way.”

Council chief executive Kevin Lavery said it was a way for council services to match the “tech-savvy” population. “We want to maximise the usage of car parking, to have our wardens not just as enforcement staff.”

There could also be the opportunity for “dynamic parking”, by which the price would drop as more parks became available.

“Where this system has been used overseas, it has resulted in reduced average parking prices and greater parking availability,” consultation documents say.

The draft long-term plan also includes the council taking on a property development role, with the establishment of an urban development agency that “would have the authority to buy (at market rates) and develop land and buildings”.

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Lester said that could mean directly developing properties, or working with developers, similar to the work done by Wellington Waterfront in the past, with decisions and budgets decided case by case.

After next week’s debate, the finalised draft will go out for public consultation.

 

This article originally appeared in The Dominion Post.

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