$1.3m parking fine haul

By Carmen Hall

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Tauranga parking offenders have been stung nearly $1.3 million so far this financial year and the courts are investigating thousands of cases where offenders have failed to pay their fines.

New figures obtained by the Bay of Plenty Times reveal Tauranga City Council has issued parking fines worth $1,295,047 this financial year to the end of May.

The council has referred 6556 infringement notices, or 25 per cent of tickets issued, to the Courts Collection Unit. These offenders are hit with additional costs and could have their wages deducted or property seized if they continued to ignore payment requests.

Parking officers are on track to match $1,343,305 of revenue collected last financial year by the time this one ends on June 30.

But while the figures show motorists have been on the receiving end, city parking wardens are also being regularly sworn at, spat at, abused and insulted for simply doing their job.

Tauranga City Council transportation manager Martin Parkes told the Bay of Plenty Times there had been five physical assaults over the past six years.

"The more serious incidents involving physical assaults are recorded and two of these have resulted in criminal convictions. Minor incidents involved parking officers being shouted at, spat at, sworn at and insulted. Unfortunately this is an everyday reality for parking officers."

Revenue collected was used to cover the cost of running the parking activity, he said.

"That is our first priority and any surplus after that is used to pay off debt on the parking buildings."

The Elizabeth St and Spring St parking buildings had an average occupancy rate of 75 per cent, he said.

The council was also lenient when it came to pursuing monies owed through the courts, he said. "Legally we have to give people 56 days to pay their fine. However, Tauranga City allows three months."

A total of 27,415 infringement notices have been issued and included fines for unregistered and unwarranted vehicles, which each carried a $200 instant penalty.

Motorists in the city centre accounted for 17,140 infringement notices compared to 2687 in downtown at Mount Maunganui and 950 in Greerton.

A further 6638 were issued in the rest of the city.

Courts Minister Chester Borrows said about 90 per cent of fines were infringement fines such as traffic offences.

Ministry of Justice senior communications adviser Matt Torbit said it was important people dealt with fines.

"Our message to people with outstanding fines is to get in touch with us to sort them out."

New laws introduced last year involve the courts data matching with the Inland Revenue Department and the Ministry of Social Development to find people and recover fines.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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