This is a question that Councillor Chris Darby asked on Facebook last week:
It is a valid question, especially considering the white elephant that has been the Ronwood Ave carpark in Manukau. But if we look a bit closer at the city centre, it seems like some pretty key sites – worth quite a lot of money – are wrapped up in parking. Let’s just look at the Downtown and Victoria Street carparks.
The Downtown carpark has nearly 1,900 spaces, occupies a prime site pretty much on the waterfront and is a key location in terms of linking together the city with the viaduct and Wynyard Quarter areas, as well as to the growing Victoria Quarter. The site has a capital value of $65 million, of which around half is the value of the land it occupies:
The Victoria Street carpark is about half the size (just under 900 spaces) and once again is located in a pretty prime spot in the city centre – right next to Albert Park and with a bit of elevation overlooking the Queen Street valley. It’s worth $45 million, of which just over $20 million is the value of the land itself.
I wonder what sort of rate of return the Council is getting on these pretty expensive assets. Looking at the pricing structure of parking in these buildings it seems as though prices are about the same (for early bird) or cheaper (for casual parking) than they were a decade ago. The Draft Annual Plan suggests a fairly modest $2.7 million profit from the entirety of the Council’s off-street parking business – on revenue of $28.6 million. While some expenditure will be on free parking areas in smaller centres, it does appear as though the rate of return on the city centre parking buildings (let alone the Ronwood Ave white elephant) is fairly dismal.
Councillor Darby seems keen to have the conversation around whether off-street parking buildings should be something Council (through Auckland Transport) gets involved in. Considering that in the city centre, owning parking buildings and probably subsidising the cost of parking (through the very low rate of return) goes against all policies to boost public transport use and unclog the city centre of cars, it’s a damn good conversation to have. Another one is whether Council should sell the buildings in their current use or redevelop them into something else themselves (as suggested for the Downtown carpark in the City Centre Master Plan).