TACKLING the city's parking problem requires a "cultural shift" in what Novocastrians view as a "good park", greater use of public transport and a council that has the courage to raise parking fees, political and business leaders say.
It comes as up to 1000 car spaces are set to be lost to new buildings and light rail next year, taking away up to 15 per cent of total parking supply in the city centre.
Feeling the pain is not just business and office workers on Hunter Street and in Honeysuckle, but residents and small business in the "pinch point" suburbs of Wickham and Cooks Hill.
The Newcastle Herald revealed last week that a business employing a staff of 30 will leave Wickham, potentially bound for Lake Macquarie, citing a lack of car spaces as the major reason for the move.
But according to Property Council of Australia Hunter director Andrew Fletcher, driving less is something Novocastrians will just have to get used to as the city gets bigger.
Asked if it was idealistic to assume the majority would embrace public transport, Mr Fletcher said “it’s what people do all around the world, all the time”.
“It’s a huge cultural change, particularly for Newcastle,” he said.
“For all our life we have been used to getting in our car and finding a park near our destination.
“Will it take some time to get used to? Yes, but it needs to happen soon and it needs to happen in a co-ordinated way.”
Parliamentary secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald agreed, saying parking pains were growing pains.
“The days of tying your horse and wagon outside the front of the shop are also gone,” he said.
However, for Lake Macquarie businessman Darren Nicholson, who has plans to add 400 new car spaces to the city’s supply with a stylish new multi-storey parking lot on Gibson Street, there will still be “significant” demand for parking going forward.
“Driving a car and parking, in my life, is always going to be a necessity,” he said.
Suggesting a solution, Mr Nicholson said council needed to raise street parking fees to change habits of “thinking there is a parking problem when we can’t get a park at the front door”.
He said the introduction of “user demand pricing” would free up street spaces in prime city locations.
“It might be $40 an hour to park out the front of the courthouse, that’s fine, if you’re prepared to pay,” he said.
“If you want cheaper parking, you’re further out of the city.”
Honeysuckle gym owner Den Finneran is one person calling for answers to the parking problems, and wants the construction of more car parks, believing politicians have overestimated future take-up of public transport.
“I just can’t see people driving to the terminal, getting on and dropping in to do a one-hour gym session. Why would you go through the hassle?” he said.