A paid parking trial has been a "disaster" for a New Plymouth cafe owner who says it has cost her thousands and led to staff layoffs.
Barbara Olsen-Henderson is seeking compensation from Port Taranaki after the five-month parking trial at the Lee Breakwater.
Ms Olsen-Henderson, who set up the Bach on Breakwater almost 10 years ago, said the trial had been a disaster for her business, and had left her out of pocket.
"We check our turnover figures, comparing them with the same period the previous year, every week and up until December our figures were running on average 14 percent ahead on last year.
"Suddenly they're running anywhere between 6 and 30 percent below it."
She said she was not against paid parking per se but the new system was confusing her customers.
"We built this with a big car park there which fishermen can use and they did use it and we just fitted in - it's all I've known.
"I don't really have a problem with people having to pay to park. I don't think it is really unfair. What I think is unfair is that it's difficult to pay, people don't understand the system and they're getting fined. I think it should be much clearer," Ms Olsen-Henderson said.
The colour-coded parking area includes 38 dedicated car parks, 76 boat-trailer parks and a further 38 shared parks. And there are another 240 free car parks on nearby Port Taranaki land.
Car parking costs $1 an hour, while fishers and marine users pay $8 a month at the moment. Charges apply 24 hours a day and infringements cost $40.
Port Taranaki chief executive Guy Roper said it had invested $100,000 in the parking project but he denied it was a revenue-gathering exercise.
He said the introduction of paid parking was necessary to control an increasingly busy area.
"Cars were parking in spaces long enough to accommodate a boat and a trailer and then there were others, boats for example, that were parking across car parks in other areas.
"So getting clarity around where the parking should be undertaken and with what group of user that has provided us with a greater degree of control."
Mr Roper said he did not believe the Bach of Breakwater's financial difficulties were due to the introduction of parking changes alone.
"I think there are a number of factors. The Taranaki economy is going through a bit of a tougher time. We also understand that the cafe has changed some of its opening hours.
"We've worked very closely with Barbara since we mooted the trial and she has indicated to me that with the changes that we've made there weren't too many problems."
Port Taranaki is to host a public meeting on the parking issue on 4 May, and Ms Olsen-Henderson and Mr Roper will meet shortly beforehand. However, the cafe owner was not confident of getting any compensation from the port.
"He's telling me that he's going to tell me what the port's view is which doesn't sound like he's going to negotiate anything," Ms Olsen-Henderson said.
"But I'd love to think that they would help me with this. Even if it was as far as leasing me some car parking space for free or negotiating on the cost of the lease that I have."
Out in the breakwater car park, there were mixed views on the introduction of paid parking.
Regular port user Chris Powell had no problem with it.
"I'm reasonably happy with them. I think it works all right. It's certainly made the parks here, the commercial user parks, at least we can get one now.
"And I think user pays. We've all got a facility that we're using and anywhere else you go in the country you pay."
Back from a day's fishing, Mike Avery was not fazed.
"It doesn't worry me too much, man. It's cheap enough, and if you've used the ramp enough it works out pretty cheap. Like they say user pays, it's got to be done."
Young mother Tracy Reid, who was out for a coffee with mate Tina Dove, was less enthusiastic.
"I think it's pretty unfair really especially for people like us that have children it's just an added cost. I mean we've parked right in town by the Wind Wand and walked here today."
Cafe-goer Neville Hunger was suspicious of the port's motives.
"I'm not agreeable to it. It's a bit of a hassle having to pay, it has always been free so it's just another revenue gathering exercise I guess."
Fisher Murray Wegman could not understand why the charges applied 24/7.
"Yeah well I reckon it sucks because, you know, we come down late at night and you even have to pay charges at night time sort of thing.
"You know, me and the wife just sort of come down and just park up around the wharf that kind of thing."