No Such Thing as a Free Car Park


Central business districts around New Zealand are suffering.

Shops that thrived for generations now lie empty due to drops in customer numbers, increases in rents and the rise of internet trading and ill-conceived council planning allowing giant malls to be built on city peripheries.

Currently the most popular panacea to injecting life into central cities seems to be offering free parking.

All the cool North Island cities are doing it – Rotorua, Hastings, Tauranga, Hamilton, Palmerston North

And now Napier is joining in on the fun, with our city council deciding to provide free on-street parking in Central Napier on Saturday November 28 for its (VERY EARLY) Christmas festival and in Taradale on December 5th for their festive fair.

There’s no such thing as a free car park, however, and NCC estimates “losses of (parking) revenue to the council of about $4200 in the city and $700 in Taradale) for these days.

But is there really a loss of revenue?

If having to pay for parking is such a turn-off to central city visitors, or the parking is too expensive, no one will park there, so no income will come from that parking space regardless of cost.

It’s like airline flights being too expensive.

If a seat on a certain flight isn’t sold – no matter how expensive of cheap the price may be, the moment the doors close and that plane takes off, the airline will NEVER recoup the money for that unfilled seat on that particular flight.

So is the cost of parking the actual problem?

Go into Napier’s CBD on any particular weekday when you have to pay for parking and the closer you get to the centre of town, the harder it will be to find an empty car park.

Having to pay for parking isn’t stopping people parking in town.

Heck, go to Wellington, where parking costs in the centre of town are ridiculously high and viciously enforced and you will have an even harder time finding an available car park.

To put it bluntly, price is no barrier to laziness. The closer people can drive to their destination and the shorter the distance they have to walk, the better.

Fifty cents or a dollar or two isn’t a great inhibitor to that.

The parking fines for over-staying your allotted time, however, might be.

When compared to other centres’ parking fines and fees, Napier’s are actually quite reasonable.

Putting a dollar in a central Napier parking meter buys you the right to keep your car there for, say, an hour.

But get way-laid and return fifteen minutes to just over an hour late and you run the risk of facing an additional $12-$21 parking fine (the time examples given being merely a reasonable representation of how long an appointment or lunch with friends might over-run their anticipated time).

Is the equivalent of twelve hours’ worth of parking time a fair penalty for being a quarter of an hour late?

How does 25c worth of time justifiably manifest itself into a fee forty-eight times that value?

Worse still, fail or forget to display one of the tickets from a parking-lot machine on your dashboard and you’re in for a fine closer to $40.

For some that’s a week’s worth of petrol and they just can’t afford to take that risk.

Parking fines that better reflect the value of the park that is being over-stayed in might be a better idea.

Lower fines would likely be more easily and promptly paid too.

If all else fails you can just do what I usually do – park at one of the hundreds of one and two hour “free parking” spaces that ring Napier’s CBD – Along parts of Marine Parade, next to the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council building, up Shakespeare Road and down Munroe Street – soak up the wonderful Napier weather and enjoy the very short stroll from these already ratepayer-funded car parks into town.

Ultimately, there has to be something in town worth paying to stay and visit, too.

Rows of empty shops, vacated when landlords’ income expectations far exceed their current worth won’t attract people into city centres.

Neither will a lack of events or activities that enhance or compliment the CBD.

Bringing vibrancy and vitality back to our CBDs is what is needed to re-enliven our city centres.

If city councillors, or those tasked with looking after the heartbeat of our main business and shopping areas seriously think that a dollar or two is the only thing inhibiting our city centres from thriving, it’s beyond time they stood aside.

Why should a CBD’s vitality be fined for their over-staying?

Hawke’s Bay’s (and New Zealand’s) inner cities deserve better!

May The Fourth Be With You!


I was born the same year as Star Wars.

A good chunk of my formative years involved helping make George Lucas INCREDIBLY rich by playing with Star Wars toys, watching the original trilogy at Napier’s grand old State Cinema (with the “tangy fruit” spheres coming out of the wall), re-enacting all the major battles with my friends in the school playground (everyone wanted to be Han Solo – he was the coolest by far!), wanting to make my own epic space movies and dreaming of going places “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away”

I remember seeing a “behind the scenes” documentary on TV one weekend showing how they did the special effects for Return of the Jedi and in particular the Endor speeder-bike chase.

Here I was – young and impressionable, watching how the most awesome movies ever made were created using what they called “models”, but to all intents and purposes for a five year old were TOYS!!!

My. Mind. Was. Blown!


I got older and the pull of The Force dwindled. I still have some of my original Star Wars toys and a souvenir Return of the Jedi cup from either the movie theatre or Pizza Hutt and the dream of making epic movies is still there but, I fear the opportunity and timing has passed me by.

The prequels came and went. I saw them all, but they were aimed at a much younger, even more commercial audience than even I could stomach.

Like Yoda, my love for Star Wars found its own nice, quiet corner of the Dagobah System and kept to itself for many, many years.

Hope still stuck with me. I lost some – it was my Dad’s middle, and Granddad’s first name and it was something I hung onto tightly when we were going through IVF.

But then the Force awakened.

Watching the trailers, I got chills.

J.J. Abrams did a fantastic job reinvigorating the Star Trek franchise. New cast members breathing a younger life into characters that first “boldly went” almost half a century ago.

In the trailers for The Force Awakens, while still managing to reveal very little of the movie’s actual plot, Abrams has brought a similarly fresh breath of air to the Star Wars universe by returning to some original themes as well as new aspects for old favourites.

We see the character of Rey taking a moment from her job at hand to stare at a distant craft launching into the sky.

It’s very much like Luke Skywalker gazing across the sands of Tatooine as its setting twin suns sink slowly to the horizon.

That same wistful wanderlust. The dream there must be something bigger and better out there. If only we could depart our current situations and get there.

And while Rebel X-Wings and Imperial Tie Fighters were usually only seen battling it out in the depths of space in the original trilogy, in the new episode trailers we see Tie Fighters attacking a desert camp out of the setting sun and X-Wings skimming the surface of a lake in an attack run – much more fighter planes than spaceships.

Throw in the Millennium Falcon being pursued across a planet’s surface and into the hulk of crash-landed Star Destroyer, light sabre battles, the latest evolution of the iconic, white Imperial Stormtrooper suit, Han, Chewie, R2D2 and that magnificent score by John Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra and suddenly it feels like I’m a little kid all over again!

Even Toddler in Frame is getting hyped up for it – she wanted me to play the trailers I showed her again and again and again… or she might have just wanted to play with my phone…

But the best reaction I found was that of Daisy Ridley, who plays Rey in the new movie.

She watches the latest trailer wide-eyed, before sobbing “..It looks amazing!”

The fact someone involved in the making of a movie can be so blown away by it speaks volumes of the power of the movies.

I can’t wait until December to become a kid again, The Force is strong in this one!

Who’s Looking After Napier CBD’s Vibrancy?


After decades of under-use, Napier’s Soundshell is finally getting some much needed action.

A recurring event, called the “Napier Night Fiesta” will be held at the Soundshell on Marine Parade beginning this Friday, 20 November.

Events are set to run for around three hours, one Friday each month and along with entertainment, food and drink the event is aimed at being child and family friendly.

Food stalls at the inaugural event are to include Pipi Pizza, Paella a Go Go, Indigo, Berry Tub Ice Cream and Design Cuisine, with Craggy Range and other local wineries, craft breweries and other vendors set to take part in future Fiestas.

“When we look at what happens in the city throughout the year, and city spaces, you can see the Soundshell is an under-utilised venue. We think it really does lend itself to being used a lot more for events.”

“The Fiesta is one way of making Napier’s centre more lively and encouraging people to use it in a positive way.”

Napier City Council Planner Fleur Lincoln.

Napier City Council says its “City Vision” project was set up to look at “opportunities for creating more vibrancy in the city centre and surrounding areas”. WIFI connected “Chill-out Areas / Urban Oasis” and a “child-friendly Pop N Play” playground on Emerson Street are both City Vision concepts.

I’m a bit conflicted by this new “Fiesta” idea.

Napier has been in dire need of events and attractions for locals like this for years, so it’s great to see some action FINALLY happening!

It’s the sort of event I have been calling for for years and years. All too often, it felt, for nought.

So what took them so long?

In their announcement even the council themselves note it is something that has been missing in the city.

So why wait?

And isn’t this sort of event, rather than being the domain of the council itself, supposed to be something more suited to an organisation like Napier Inner City Marketing?

NICM’s goals, according to their Mission Statement, include:
• A people-centred city – a welcoming destination for tourists and locals to enjoy
• Uniqueness, vibrancy and prosperity
• Creativity and innovation
• Celebrating beauty – vibrant, attracting artistic and creative talent

NICM currently runs a handful of events each year including a city-wide sale in the slowest winter months and a “Random Acts of Kindness Day”, so you’d think something like this Fiesta would fit in nicely and attract more people into town, especially through the CBD and up Emerson Street on the way to the Soundshell.

So why didn’t NICM seize the initiative and take the lead with a project like this years ago?

Or did Napier City Council’s “City Vision” get sick of waiting and steal their thunder?

I have heard from CBD retailers that in recent times the council has organised and gone ahead with a number of decorative and activity-type things in the inner city without consulting NICM members first.

It looks like City Vision’s Chill-out Areas / Urban Oasis is one such development.

One of Inner City Marketing’s other mission goals is “A smart ‘I-city’. Napier City Council already operates free Wifi in parts of the CBD, but City Vision’s Chill-out Areas / Urban Oasis also act as Wifi Hotspots thanks to local telecommunications providers NOW.

Regardless of who is doing it, it’s great to see more activity in Napier’s CBD, especially heading into the summer months.

But you still have to still ask:

Who is really looking after Napier CBD’s vibrancy?

And what took them so long?


The night after Friday Fiesta, Hawke’s Bay’s Indian community will be celebrating Diwali at the Soundshell.

With music dancing and food, it has become one of Napier’s great cultural events and well worth attending!

The Magic of Moe


“In the Coromandel, on top of Mount Moehau, lives a furry monster by the name of “Moe”!”

If you’ve ever wanted to see a pre-schooler’s eyes light up, mouth drop agape and arms start flapping as they excitedly run towards the television, those are the words that are likely to set them off.

They’re the opening lines to a great, New Zealand made children’s television programme called “The Moe Show”.

Moe is a big, friendly, furry monster who lives in a treehouse, as previously stated, on top of Mount Moehau on the Coromandel Peninsula, along with his friends Fern the fairy, Frank the fantail and Gilbert the gecko.

Each episode Moe encounters a problem which he must overcome.

A letter of the alphabet gives him a hint as to a possible remedy and he ventures from his treehouse to locations all over New Zealand to discover the solution.

Imbued with the same qualities and ethos as the likes of the legendary Sesame Street, each episode involves elements of investigation, exploration, Te-reo Maori, lots of fun and a decent dollop of humour for both children and any adults watching with their kids.

I particularly love Moe’s one liners to the narrator’s “Do you know what you need?” question that sets Moe off on his journeys and the “Moe, Can I be Frank with you?” chats that Frank and Moe have towards the end of each episode.

It’s fun for the whole family!

We just happened to be fortunate enough to meet Moe earlier this year on one of his quests!

Moe 2

The Napier in Frames were at our regular Saturday morning café when the overheard the manager of Marine Parade’s SK8 Zone, who had come in to get a coffee, mention that Moe was visiting to find out about Skate parks (“Papa Retireti” in Te Reo).

We wandered over to watch the show being filmed from outside the skate park and when Moe saw Daughter in Frame watching in her pram, he came over to meet us!

While Daughter in Frame played with Moe, Moe’s friend Jeremy told me about and showed me pictures of his trip to (someone had told him how to get, how to get to) Sesame Street.

Jeremy and I are around the same age, so we both grew up in the 80’s basking in the golden light of great children’s television like Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock, New Zealand’s own Woolly Valley (““Baa” said Eunice”) and, later on, The Son of a Gunn Show’s Thingee.

These are the shows that taught and inspired us. We fell in love with the characters and places they took us to.

To meet and talk about these great shows with someone who was involved in making a similarly great show and had actually walked down Sesame Street, visited Hooper’s Store and even a certain trash can said to be of Tardis-like interior dimensions, made me quietly greener that Oscar the Grouch.

But it also made me extremely happy.

It shows that, at least in the case of Moe and his friends, the future of New Zealand children’s television is in good, safe hands.

The Moe Show is brilliant – well worth a watch for both children and their parents or guardians.

It’s an intelligent, funny, multi-cultured show that not only teaches children new words, facts and things, it also takes them to new places and implores they then get out and discover things all around this great country of ours for themselves.

That’s the magic of Moe!

A Priceless Home


You’ve heard the term “A month of Sundays”, right?

Well, having finally gotten Mum into the care of a rest home, it’s taken me two months of Saturdays, plus any available time outside of that to clear out her and Dad’s old place.

It’s meant less time spent with my wife and daughter and even less time still spent on myself, which has been wearing me down faster than anything else.

It’s been very hard, dusty, heart-breaking, priceless and vastly under-valued work.

It was never going to be an easy task, but with the help of my wife on a couple weekends when the “outlaws” looked after our daughter we managed to get the job done.

When I say “hard” I don’t necessarily mean physical.

While there was a fair bit of heavy lifting involved, the hardest part was the simple fact it was essentially emptying out and dismantling keystones of memory in the house I grew up in.

I’ve gotten in trouble with my wife for calling it “home” in recent months, as we now have our own piece of New Zealand. But you can’t help but refer to the place you lived the first twenty-plus years of your life as “my home”.

So much stuff that I grew up with was still there.

In a lot of cases I mean that literally – There were packets of herbs and spices in the back of cupboards that were as old as I am!

There were quite a few keepsakes – photos, family heirlooms, mementos and the like I couldn’t bear to part with, but there was also a lot of stuff that, while it had no major sentimental value, did have a commercial value. It’s just a crying shame it was such a small value.

Chairs, tables and vases. Books I learned from and developed my thirst for knowledge. The crockery and cutlery that had fed me for over twenty years – all things that had been around me my whole younger life and were now no use to me, having plenty of my own in our own home needed to be sold, so we called in antiques and second hand dealers.

While we made a reasonable amount of money to put back into mum’s bank account, and while most of the stuff was “retro” and “vintage”, rather than desirable, expensive “antique” it still felt like they were worth so much more than what we got for them.

While I would understand or more readily accept a “buy for $5, sell for $10” policy, the predominant tactic of “buy for $5, sell for $15 or $20” left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.

It seems commerce has no sense of sentimentality.

Other stuff, like clothes and random chattels, we donated to the Cranford Hospice Shop and St Vincent DePaul.

But in the majority of cases, like those herbs and spices, it was a matter of “get rubbish bag, open cupboard / drawer, tip entire contents of cupboard / drawer into rubbish bag, chuck on trailer, repeat”.

That happened so much I’m now practically on first name basis with the security guard lady at the dump!

One of the tasks that unexpectedly cut the deepest was the simple act of getting the phone disconnected.

The phone number I had committed to memory my entire life, the means by which company, conversation, consolation, congratulation and FAMILY was only a few button presses away is now greeted with a blank, “beep, beep, beep” dial tone.

I can no longer “phone home”.

Going through old boxes of stuff, especially Dad’s things, yielded many great memories and items. A lot of them tinged with sadness that he is no longer here to tell me the stories behind them.

I found a metal cash box / deposit box under a chest of drawers and I guess it spoke volumes about what Mum and Dad valued most.

There were no share bonds for Apple or Microsoft from the early 1980’s or gold ingots in this little box. No papers linking me to royal lineage, untold wealth or some mysterious twin I had never known.

In this box were well-wishers’ cards from Mum and Dad’s wedding, the registration papers for my first car (a Ford Anglia Dad helped me buy and get running) and report cards from my first years at primary school.

Family memories – far more valuable than anything else.

Friends of ours are now renting Mum and Dad’s old house, my old home.

They are taking care of it – doing the gardens, cleaning up the remaining bits and pieces we didn’t get to.

My wife, daughter and I went over there for lunch the other day and it’s so heartening to see the place being LIVED in again, as opposed to being merely existed in, as Mum had done since Dad passed away.

We kept some of the furniture in parts of the house like the kitchen, where there isn’t much space and the chairs and table Mum and Dad had there fitted perfectly.

Out of sheer habit, I sat in the place I’ve always sat in at that table as we had our lunch. When the others went back outside I just sat there by myself for a while.

I could hear Dad tinkering in the garage.

I could hear Mum cleaning in the sitting room.

I smiled to myself and shed a tear.

A Hard Six Months


Sorry for the lack of contact – It’s been a busy, tough six months for this Frame in Napier.

Busy in that there seems to have been very little gap between my “proper,” “pays the bills” job and spending time with my family – especially our daughter who’s growing exponentially in both size, smarts and energy expenditure (hers) and consumption (ours).

But it’s the extended family that’s been the toughest aspect recently.

As you remember, my dad died suddenly about a year and a half ago. That in itself has been hard for me to deal with at times, but it also meant my Mum was hit even harder by it, with the added factor that she was now alone at home.

Since retiring years ago, Dad had essentially run stuff around the house – He did most of the cooking, would go out and do the shopping and other errands while, for some reason, Mum became more insular, went out less and started to rely on Dad more.

While Dad would find any excuse to pop in and visit us and his new granddaughter in the few short months they coexisted, it felt almost like Mum was trying to find any excuse not to go out.

So when Dad died, Mum’s main outlet to the world closed off.

Naturally we tried to help as much as we could – I took control of organising Dad’s funeral, paying bills etc. and getting help for Mum, as she had lost the skills (or just the will) to cook her own dinners and other household tasks that Dad had long been in charge of.

We had initially considered putting Mum in a rest home to be looked after straight after Dad’s death (both my parents are quite elderly). But had been told / convinced by the local health provider powers-that-be that Mum was best suited to in-home care, of which they just so happened to have numerous, publicly-funded options.

The carers helped as much as they could, but Mum is fiercely protective of her home and seldom let them do everything they were supposed to, or in to the house further than the kitchen for that matter. One lot gave up and another lot were brought in, but they seemed happy doing even less.

It was hard to tell where the line between the carers not doing their job and Mum not letting them do their job was.

Mum wasn’t taking very good care of herself and, aside from breakfast, seemed to be only eating the “Meals on Wheels” she got for lunch and biscuits.

I had been steadily getting fed up with the lack of action over Mum’s state and eventually snapped and put my foot down, demanding she be re-assessed and asking why something hadn’t been done earlier.

We had been through two or three of these “assessments” of the level of required help / care for Mum and the second one had deemed her suitable for residential care, but for whatever reason, the authorities hadn’t acted upon it, despite one part of the DHB I had been in touch with telling me it was all go.

Apparently the main sticking point had been Mum not wanting to go into care. She would say yes to her GP and me, but not the care assessors (who were, naturally, quite happy to continue the income stream to their care agencies).

In the last assessment, Mum finally agreed she’d like to go into a rest home and wheels were put in motion, with my foot forcefully on the accelerator.

Within a couple weeks we had found a place in a rest home not too far from her old home and Mum settled in remarkably quickly. More importantly to us, she was now eating properly and looking after herself, with a dedicated team to do it for her if she didn’t!

That was a weight off my mind, but it was only half the story – we still had my old family home to clean up / clear out…