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In an effort to help struggling Oamaru retailers, the free two-hour parking initiative will continue for at least another year.

Since last September, the Waitaki District Council has allowed up to two hours free parking in pay and display parking spaces to encourage visitors to the CBD and support shop owners.

At a council meeting on Tuesday, councillors voted to extend the free parking initiative for another 12 months and approved a discount of 25% on current parking permit pricing and renewals.

In his report to councillors, regulatory manager Andrew Bardsley said parking in central Oamaru had not returned to prepandemic levels and staff were reporting very low use of parking, which was expected to continue because of rising fuel prices and increased online shopping.

To ensure the free parking was not abused, parking officers continued to enforce the two hour limit and parking bylaw, but very few infringements were issued in the pay and display area, Mr Bardsley said.

While there would be some financial impacts from a continuation of the free parking it was important to support the shop local campaign.

The initiative had been received positively, but there had been a small number of comments suggesting it could be better publicised, which was the intention of officers, he said.

Deputy Mayor Melanie Tavendale asked if the money now collected from parking was still enough to cover the cost of machine maintenance and staff wages, or if the business rate was used to offset the loss.

β€˜β€˜Are we inadvertently charging our businesses more in an effort to help them?’’

Mr Bardsley said maintenance and the salary for the parking warden would most likely be covered by parking revenue, so it was unlikely any offset would be needed. Projected parking revenue for 2022 was expected to be about $124,000, down from $145,641 in 2021 and significantly down on the $249,422 collected in 2019.