Auckland Transport takes up the parking challenge

Many property developers want to double/triple-up car numbers on tight templates of land or to meet tenant requirements for car spaces within their resource consent framework, Bob Haswell says

The International Parking Institute – headquartered in the United States – says by embracing technology and forging public-private partnerships, cities can convert long-existing parking issues into models of sustainability, efficiency, revenue generation and customer service.

Auckland Transport (AT) recently released its draft Parking Discussion document with general manager strategy and planning Peter Clark saying it’s the first time parking has been reviewed Auckland-wide.

Managing off-street parking facilities – in terms of long-stay commuter parking versus short-stay parking – is one of the biggest challenges.

Determined to foster greater use of public transport options, AT plans to reduce and eventually phase out the provision of long-stay commuter parking facilities in favour of prioritising short-term casual parking within their existing parking sites.

AT owns and operates seven car park buildings across the region – five of these in the CBD. The Downtown car park building on strategic prime land close to Queen Street has been touted as a key component of the council’s city centre master plan. One of New Zealand’s major car park owner/operators – Tournament – recently made a $75 million offer to Auckland Council to buy the car park, which has a capital value of $65 million. The offer was rejected.

Mr Clark reinforces that Auckland Transport supports private sector ownership of car park buildings but cautions that future provision of them will be subject to comprehensive criteria including commercial considerations.

The draft discussion paper suggests possible parking levies being imposed on private car park building providers as a revenue-generating mechanism to help fund public transport initiatives.

“Further investigation into parking levies is required to determine if they may be applied in Auckland’s city centre,” Mr Clark says.

The Auckland Transport discussion paper also flags the fact that New Zealand does not currently fully tax employer-provided parking.

Meanwhile, the proposed Auckland Unitary Plan seeks to constrain additional parking supply through the continued application of maximum parking controls for new commercial developments and introducing additional conditions for developers to meet with over new parking facilities.

The big players
The two major players in the New Zealand car parking landscape became more entwined last year when Tournament Parking – the only nationwide car parking company that is 10% New Zealand-owned – sold about 60% of its operational business to Wilson Parking but retained the property assets.

Wilson Parking is owned by Hong Kong’s Kwok family, is the largest car parking company in Southeast Asia and New Zealand’s largest private parking operator.

Chief executive officer Steve Evans says Wilson Parking now operates more than 300 car park facilities in New Zealand across Auckland, Tauranga, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch, Queenstown, Dunedin and Invercargill.

“When the opportunity arose to acquire part of Tournament Parking’s operating portfolio, Wilson was naturally interested to expand our operating locations,” says Mr Evans, adding that Wilson Parking also owns outright two car parks in Auckland.

“Car parks are, like all commercial property investments, subject to market changes and access to specialist operators. There is both property risk and operating risk and any investor should understand these risks in establishing value.”

Car parking buildings throughout New Zealand are a tightly-held resource and a high-value asset. The 300-space strata-in-freehold City Centre car park in Albert St in the Auckland CBD changed hands for $15,500,000 in June 2012 – a yield at the time of 7.49%.

In May last year, the 570-bay former Auckland Council car park building at 24 Mercury Lane – off Karangahape Road – sold for $10,000,000 to Tournament Parking and is now operated by Wilson. The land value of the site is now $6,000,000; in 1994 it was $560,000.

Smart parking
The International Parking Institute conducted a survey last year in the US and technology emerged as a key theme. Parking access control, payment automation including electronic (cashless) payment, plus real-time communication of pricing and availability to mobile/smart phones were standout issues, along with guidance systems enabling drivers to find parking faster – thus reducing carbon emissions.

New Zealand company Frogparking is a world leader in the design and development of innovative parking systems including solar-powered occupancy sensors, wireless parking guidance, wireless permits and mobile apps, supported by cloud-based management software designed to improve parking strategies and the wider parking experience.

Commercial property investment company Smales Farm installed 100 of Frogparking’s solar-powered car occupancy parking sensors at its properties 2 and 4 Fred Thomas Drive in Takapuna last year and has experienced a return on investment through the increased efficiency of parking resources.

Sensors across the 330 car parks detect whether a parking space is occupied and sends reports via a wireless internet connection supported by a cloud-based parking management software system.

Smales Farm general manager Daniel Henderson says the technology supports highly efficient enforcement as well as providing detailed usage data that gives a deeper understanding of how tenants and visitors use parking resources.

“In addition, Smales Farm now has empirical data to show the council exactly how we are using our parking resources and what capacity we have to service changes or developments,” Mr Henderson says.

Stack ‘em up
Figuring that New Zealand would eventually face the same challenges as European cities about the availability of land and space within developments for car parking, Kiwi businessman Bob Haswell, of Car Parking Solutions New Zealand, brought German car stacking technology to this country.

“Many property developers want to double/triple-up car numbers on tight templates of land or to meet tenant requirements for car spaces within their resource consent framework,” says Mr Haswell.

“In a new build, the cost is around $10,000-12,000 per car space. For around the same price, we can install a simple two-car stacker system in an existing building – provided there is 3500-3800mm head room.”

Mr Haswell is aware of 30 buildings throughout New Zealand that are future-proofed for parking needs where basement head heights have been raised from the standard 2500mm to 3500mm to allow for stacking at a later date.

“$10,000-15,000 invested in a car stacker space can equate to $50,000-80,000 value,” Mr Haswell claims.

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