Our Central City Parking Policy will guide how we make decisions on how we provide, regulate and charge for parking in the future.

On-street parking by Latimer Square

We're reviewing how we manage parking in the central city, in particular on-street parking. Our proposed policy will help us make decisions about how we use space and provide safer and more people-friendly streets.

Having the right parking policy will support community and visitor access to the central city, help local businesses to thrive, and ultimately make the city a more appealing place.

To develop this draft policy, Council staff met with a range of central city business, community and residential interest groups and representatives to share information about central city parking and understand their views. Summary of feedback from discussions with central city resident and business groups [PDF, 713 KB].

We then asked for public feedback on the policy and received 87 submissions. Take a look at the consultation process.(external link)

We have now reviewed the submissions and the next steps are:

  1. The Hearings Panel considers feedback presented in person.
  2. The policy is finalised.
  3. The Hearings Panel reports to Council for a decision to approve the final policy.

Our central city is the economic, social, and cultural heart of our city. We have seen significant changes to our central city in the decade since the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011.

The challenges we have faced have strengthened our desire to place people at the centre of the redevelopment of our Central City. Our community has told us that they want a Central City that fosters business investment and growth, attracts visitors from around the globe and invites residents to wander, explore and discover the treasures within the lanes, new public spaces and network of parks.

Our Central City Parking Policy needs to support our efforts to make our Central City a vibrant destination to live, work and socialise. Our Central City is now home to around 6,000 residents and growing. There are new public spaces, including gardens and parks, and places to gather, and the city is becoming greener, easier, and more enjoyable to move around. Major public facilities are under construction that will attract people to the city, there are 900 new residential dwellings with more planned, and significant improvements have been made to the transport network to make it easier and safer to move around the city by car, bike, or on foot.

When we consider how our parking policy can best support our Central City, we need to keep in mind that the needs of our city centre are different from those of surrounding suburbs. Our Central City is a hub of productivity and entertainment, with a higher density of people and businesses than is present outside the centre, making it easier to connect.

Businesses can flourish if they enjoy a competitive advantage due to the city centre presenting an attractive offering that is not available elsewhere, supported by this greater number and density of people. The attractiveness of our city centre depends on the vibrancy and mix of its retail and hospitality offerings, entertainment venues, visitor attractions, and public and green spaces, as well as its connectedness.

Our Central City also has a growing density of housing and a large daily influx of workers and visitors. The more attractive our Central City, the more it can meet a wide range of interests and tastes, entice new residents and create new business opportunities, ultimately boosting the diversity and resilience of our local economy. If our city centre prospers, this supports the prosperity of our city as a whole.

This parking policy is about the allocation of valuable Central City street space. The dynamics of that street space can vary across the Central City and this is reflected in the different zones identified in the District Plan.

Our Central City comprises a tight business core (commercial Central City) and graduates out through a mixed area of businesses and dwellings (commercial Central City mixed-use) to culminate in inner-city residential dwellings (residential Central City) that are expected to increase in density as our city grows.

Special purpose areas also exist (including important facilities like our hospital), which contribute to the unique offering of our Central City. In developing a parking policy that helps our Central City to flourish, we need to consider the special role played by the Central City as well as the particular dynamics of each of the areas that make up our Central City.

Our Central City population

Pre-earthquake Now Goal
52,000 employees 41,000 employees 75,000 employees by 2048
8,000 residents 6,000 residents 20,000 residents by 2028

Key facts on parking in Central City.

There are around 33,000 parks in the Central City, excluding residential parks:

  • Around 80% of the total is off-street parking.
  • 20% is on-street parking.
  • The majority of on-street parking is unmetered and unrestricted.

Of the 33,000 total parks, approximately 13,000 are publicly available car parks, not associated with a particular shop or business.

Of these 13,000 publicly available car parks:

  • Around 1,200 are metered on-street spaces.
  • There are around 7,200 publically available off-street spaces, 2,100 in parking buildings and 5,100 in surface lots - the Council manages 900 of these car parks and the rest are managed by private organisations.
  • The remaining 4,600 are unmetered, on-street spaces, free to the user (1,200 of these have time restrictions and a small number are vehicle restricted - ie mobility parks or loading zones).

The vast majority (around 94%) of residential units in the Central City have off-street parking (though we do not know how many spaces each unit has for parking – this would be difficult to accurately estimate).

Parking in our Central City can be on or off-street. On-street parking is provided by the Council. Off-street parking can be owned and managed by the Council, but it is mostly privately owned and managed by businesses or residents.

Parking options include surface parking, basements or roofs of buildings, or multi-storey buildings. Some parking facilities are intended to be temporary, such as the surface gravel lots we see around our city which operate on vacant land. Others, such as parking buildings, are intended to be more permanent.

The number of car parks in our city changes over time as land-use changes. We have been surveying publicly available on and off-street car parks quarterly since 2015.

We also counted total parking spaces over the summer of 2019/20 which identified a total of around 35,000 non-residential public and private parking spaces in the Central City at this time, this figure excludes parking spaces on residential properties which we have not counted).

What does this look like on a map?

Using aerial photographs, we identified around 65 hectares (650,000 m2) of off-street, non-residential, surface parking in the Central City as shown on the map below.

The value of this land is significant and represents about two-thirds of non-residential parking in Central City.

Not shown on the map is the remaining third which comprises on-street parking and parking in multi-storey buildings.

Residential surface parking

Yellow is land used for non-residential surface parking

There are fewer on-street spaces now, primarily due to changes to streets around the East Frame, the Margaret Mahy Family Playground and the Metro Sports Facility.

This reduction in on-street spaces has been balanced by an increase in off-street supply, and there is roughly the same number of car parks now as there were before the earthquakes.

The Council manages all on-street parking, but the majority of off-street parking is managed by private providers.

The map below shows the location of the around 14,500 publicly available car parks. These car parks include:

  • Off-street parking buildings (for example Lichfield Street, the Art Gallery, The Crossing)
  • Off-street surface lots (for example Wilsons and Good Spot parking lots)
  • On-street metered spaces
  • On-street restricted spaces (either time-restricted such as P60 and P120 spaces or vehicle type restricted such as loading zones and mobility parks)
Central city parking restrictions

Red - on-street metred.
Orange - on-street time-restricted.
Yellow - on-street unrestricted.
Green - off-street casual.

With technological advances, including autonomous vehicles, the way we park is likely to change in the future.

The timeframe for such a potentially significant change is uncertain.

Given the current technology development curve, and barring any significant technological breakthroughs over the next few years, it is unlikely that vehicles with high driving automation will be operating (outside of controlled trials) on New Zealand public roads before 2025, and highly unlikely that vehicles with full driving automation will be operating before 2030.

In the meantime, we need to respond to our current circumstances by having a consistent approach for resolving parking requests and issues, to support the regeneration of our city.

In the future, technological advances will further open up possibilities for fair and efficient sharing of parking space. This will help us to move away from a reserved parking model to a shared parking model, which recognises that peak parking demand does not coincide for every business or activity.

Technological advances are also likely to include better booking and payment methods, and better wayfinding (in particular, parking availability and mobility as a service apps).

The Council performs several important and distinct roles when it comes to parking in the central city.

As a provider

The Council manages all of the on-street spaces and two off-street parking buildings - Lichfield Street and the Art Gallery.

As a manager

The Council’s parking wardens monitor and enforce Council-provided spaces on-street and off-street (Lichfield and Art Gallery).

As a regulator

The Council has statutory responsibility as a consenting authority under the Resource Management Act 1991 and the Building Act 2004.

This is to ensure developments comply with the objectives of the District Plan and to manage the environmental effects that may arise from development.

As a facilitator

The Council has an interest in ensuring the social, cultural, economic, and environmental success of Central City.

Where parking can play a role, the Council can help coordinate development to ensure parking outcomes contribute to the wider strategic objectives; for example, through facilitating shared parking.

The Council currently provides and manages around 20% of the parking supply in Central City, with the private sector providing and managing the other 80%.

The Council can have a regulatory and facilitation role even where it does not provide or manage parking.

The following issues were identified through research and analysis, as well as talking to stakeholders.

The availability of free or cheap parking encourages commuting to Central City in private vehicles rather than by more sustainable modes:

  • In the financial year 2018/19, on-road petrol and diesel use was the highest emitting source within the transportation sector’s greenhouse gas emissions and produced 36% of Christchurch’s total gross greenhouse gas emissions. On-road petrol and diesel use increased by 2.3% between 2016/17 and 2018/19.
  • We have set a target for reducing our greenhouse gas emissions (excluding methane) by 50% by 2030 and reaching net-zero by 2045. Mode shift from single-occupant vehicles to sustainable modes is an important part of our strategy to reduce our emissions and address other problems associated with high levels of car usage. These include reduced amenity, safety risks and poor health outcomes, and the significant rise in congestion forecast for the future.
  • The 2018 census data shows a relatively high proportion of workers in the Central City (69%) arriving by car, truck or van. One of the factors driving this high rate of commuting to Central City by private vehicle is the availability of free or cheap parking. However, the true cost of this commute (in particular, the environmental impacts) is not borne by the user. We have more than 40,000 workers at present in the Central City, and we are aiming to increase this to 75,000 over the next 30 years.1 This growth in transport demand needs to be accommodated through active and public transport. Incorporating this growth through private vehicle travel would result in a level of car use that the Central City network would not have the capacity to absorb, and would exacerbate the negative impacts of high car usage outlined above.

It is difficult to resolve competing demands for valuable Central City on-street space, and trade-offs  must be made when prioritising one use over another:

  • Central City space has significant value leading to competing demands for use whether it be:
    • for movement function such as traffic lanes and footpaths
    • for place function, recognising streets as places to dwell and not just move along
    • as a destination, such as hospitality, recreation, retail and office space, and visiting people and/or places
    • to support business operations, in particular through loading zones
    • as a connection between movement and destination, such as bus stops, parking, drop off/pick-ups, and footpaths.
  • With limited on-street space available, the use of this space needs to be prioritised. To accommodate the greatest number of uses, priority may need to change by time of day, day of the week, and location (in particular, distance from the city core). Advances in technology will support our ability to allocate and share road space more efficiently.

There are concerns that the presence of a large number of temporary surface parking lots in the Central City are detracting from the city’s recovery:

  • Demand for land has not returned to pre-earthquake levels, and some land has been left vacant and undeveloped for a long period of time, resulting in temporary car parks (some in a messy and dilapidated state), broken buildings and empty spaces near the heart of Christchurch. A large proportion of vacant land in Central City is now used for temporary parking. There is a concern that these sites reduce the city centre’s vibrancy, making it less walkable and contributing to perceptions that it is unsafe.
  • There are, however, different views on the role of temporary surface parking lots in Central City’s recovery. In particular, there is a view from some stakeholders that temporary surface car parking lots are fundamental to the survival of the city by providing accessible and low-cost parking to business patrons. They feel that restrictions on these type of car parks as well as on-street parking make it difficult for Central City businesses to compete with suburban malls.
  • There is a need to support access to local businesses in a way which does not detract from the attractiveness of the offering of the Central City. Temporary parking has no amenity value in itself. It is the adjacent hospitality, recreation, retail and office space that attracts people and drives the value of temporary parking. The primary purpose of operating a temporary parking site is to provide a return on land while it remains undeveloped. It has been suggested that these sites also support short stay, high turnover access to people visiting businesses in the CBD, but it is not clear if that is the case. A large number of public surface car parks offer low cost all day “early bird” parking suggesting they are marketed at commuters. There are also a number of private temporary car parks which are not advertised for public access and are likely used for commuting.
  • There is a need to better understand the problem, and obtain data on the extent to which temporary car parks are used by commuters rather than short-stay visitors to the city, and on what people do once they park.

We do not have the capacity with current tools to enforce all on-street parking restrictions:

  • On-street parking enforcement ensures there is a turnover of car parks for customers and patrons supporting the areas businesses, visitors and residents. If we do not actively manage the supply of on-street parking by enforcing parking time limits and price restrictions, then usage in breach of those restrictions will increase – for example, commuters parking in P120 parks.
  • However, with the current tools, it is too expensive to enforce all parking restrictions and anecdotally we are aware of some non-compliance.

We need to improve the quality of our data to support evidence-based parking decisions:

  • The Council has good data for occupancy of the approximately 1,300 metered spaces and approximately 1,700 off-street parking building spaces. We are working to improve our occupancy count for our unmetered on-street spaces and to be able to break parking data down spatially.