NEWCASTLE motorists are wasting the equivalent of a working week each year looking for a parking space.
A Newcastle Herald review of parking at Newcastle’s major employment centres show organisations are making almost $15 million each year in parking fees between them but have little or no plans to create any more parking spaces.
It comes as motorists continue to waste time looking for somewhere to park.
At the University of Newcastle, a student who spends an average of 20 minutes each day looking for a park, four days a week, over 28 weeks of two semesters will spend 37.3 hours a year looking for a space.
At John Hunter Hospital, a staff member who spends 10 minutes a day, four days a week over 48 working weeks of the year will use up 32 hours annually.
Australian Bureau of Statistics figures indicate that Newcastle residents predominantly travel to work by car.
NRMA Hunter director Kyle Loades said the NRMA would like an audit of car parks and population requirements in Newcastle.
‘‘Anecdotally, there’s not enough parks,’’ Mr Loades said. ‘‘It’s clear the public doesn’t support using paid parking meters as a way to manage traffic.
‘‘Nobody expects unlimited parking but the current system’s clearly not working.’’
NSW Nurses Association Hunter organiser Matt Byrne said parking at the region’s two major hospitals was ‘‘appalling’’ especially as visits could be unpredictable.
‘‘It’s particularly toxic for staff starting afternoon shift,’’ he said.
‘‘If it’s ugly for staff, it’s worse for patients.’’
A Calvary Mater spokeswoman said there were no immediate future plans for extra parking.
‘‘Under the NSW Ministry of Health revenue policy, car parking revenue contributes to our total annual budget for the delivery of health-care services,’’ she said.
Hunter New England Health capital works manager Brett Evans said on average, visitor car parking spaces turned over about threetimes a day.
He said about $2million of their annual revenue went towards parking costs and the free shuttle bus service, with the rest going into hospital services.
In addition to fines, they issued 1246 parking warnings in 2012-13, Mr Evans said.
‘‘Hunter New England Health is currently assessing options to further improve access to parking,’’ he said.
‘‘We continue to encourage staff and visitors to use the free park and ride facility at Hunter Stadium.’’
The Herald reported this week that a pregnant nurse at John Hunter Hospital was fined $101 even though she had already paid to park at her workplace.
On the day she was fined, the nurse drove her husband’s car to work and had forgotten to transfer the parking sticker from her car.
Despite appealing to the State Debt Recovery Office explaining the situation, the fine was not waived.
At the University of Newcastle’s Callaghan Campus there are 24,000 enrolments and about 2000 fulltime-equivalent staff.
This is compounded by about 3000 casual staff who come and go from the campus throughout the year.
Newcastle University Students Association president Rose Gosper said parking was an issue for students because public transport was so poor.
She said some students did not mind using free car parks a further walk from campus but for many with equipment such as design folders it became an issue.
‘‘We need to put in viable public transport systems, that includes keeping the train line, and definitely increasingly cycleways,’’ she said.
‘‘My personal experience catching public transport ... there was only one bus an hour and it was consistently late or did not show up at all.’’
A university spokeswoman said it had plans for a new multistorey car park on the north-eastern side of campus with 420spaces.
She said the institution had a 10-year plan for the campus’s transport needs.
‘‘Considerable effort is being focused on ensuring public transport is maintained and improved where possible, improving connectivity with cycleways, providing better end of journey cycle facilities and increasing participation in the university car pool scheme,’’ she said.
‘‘The university has introduced priority parking for registered carpoolers which has significantly increased user numbers of the scheme.’’
Newcastle Alliance chairman Paul Murphy said parking in Newcastle city centre was overpriced compared to other city centres, inconsistent across town and a deterrent to shoppers.
‘‘It’s not fair for business people and their customers. It’s not about turning over people it’s just revenue raising,’’ he said.
The alliance made a push for 30 minutes of free parking in the CBD over Christmas.
Instead, Newcastle City Council will offer two hours of free parking at its City Mall car park in King Street for motorists who spend at least $20 in the CBD between November29 and December31.
Shoppers will have to show their receipt as proof of purchase.
The alliance labelled the council plan as disappointing.
At Westfield Kotara an expansion plan was approved in August to reduce its parking by 250 spaces, although it will increase staff parking from 320 to 400.
The move angered nearby residents sick of Westfield workers clogging their streets to avoid parking fees.
Adamstown Heights resident Terry Musgrave told the Newcastle Herald last week that parking around Kotara was ‘‘worse than it has ever been’’, with ‘‘more than 400 cars in the street every day now’’.
Mr Musgrave slammed the Newcastle City Council over its lack of action to resolve the problem.
WHAT MOTORISTS SAID
An NRMA survey of 750 members, which included Sydney and Newcastle motorists, found:
■ Almost 80% of motorists believe on-street parking meters are simply revenue raising.
■ 30% believe they should be replaced with free but time-restricted parking.
■ 37% have changed shopping and leisure destinations to avoid parking meters.
■ 83% believe parking meters are overpriced.
■ Three-quarters want revenue spent on local roads.
Source: NRMA Survey 2010.