Tauranga parking wardens will be hitting motorists with instant $150 fines for bald tyres in a shock move that has one city councillor asking if it is an early April Fool's joke.
Councillor Rick Curach warned it would deter people from visiting the downtown area once bald tyres were added to the expired warrants and registrations checklist.
"We should have been made aware of this - it was a surprise to all of us," he said.
And unlike the two-month period of grace for recently expired warrants and registrations, bald tyres would earn an instant $150 fine.
The announcement about bald tyre checks starting on April 1 had prompted Councillor Catherine Stewart to email council chief executive Garry Poole asking if it was an early April Fool's joke.
Cr Curach said it appeared to have been treated as an operational issue by staff, whereas there were serious concerns people might not want to come downtown. Parking tickets costing $40 were already a deterrent and bald tyres checks were another reason to go elsewhere. It added to the advantages of privately owned shopping centres like Bayfair.
Council transportation manager Martin Parkes said they were guided by the Government's strategy to improve vehicle safety. Wardens in cities larger than Tauranga already policed tyres and a two-week check last year revealed at least 50 vehicles should not have been on the road.
Tickets would be issued for obviously bald tyres and wardens would not use tread depth gauges. There was no period of grace because bald tyres were an immediate safety issue. "It should not be seen as council revenue gathering or targeting certain parts of the community," Mr Parkes said.
Tauranga Mainstreet chairman Glenn Tuck said it was weird the council had not told them. Mainstreet had earlier asked that wardens take more of an ambassadorial role.
"We would like to see them talking and be more open because they are the coalface of the council. It would give the city as a whole a way better rap among visitors and locals."
Retailer Bill Campbell did not mind too much, provided wardens were fair and did not put most of their efforts into policing tyres in the CBD.
Mr Parkes said the primary role of wardens was to encourage turnover of on-street carparks to support the commercial centres, and they would not be diverted from their normal beats.
Labour candidate for Tauranga Dr Rachel Jones said the move was bad news for those struggling to make ends meet. It was more about revenue gathering than safety and education.