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Fines backlash: Leaders step into controversy

By John Cousins

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Council parking warden checking for bald tyres.
Council parking warden checking for bald tyres.

Political pressure looks almost certain to reverse the shock announcement that Tauranga parking wardens will start hitting motorists with $150 instant fines for bald tyres from April 1.

Mayor Stuart Crosby said he would have preferred that wardens took an educational rather than punitive approach.

His comments reflected a growing consensus among councillors that they should have been consulted on the controversial fines. The plan also sparked fiery debate on the Bay of Plenty Times Facebook page after the story was published, with many criticising the idea.

Mr Crosby said it had the potential to impact on the choice of where people chose to shop. He would rather that wardens gave motorists a week to get new tyres - similar to the period of grace for tickets issued for recently expired warrants and registrations.

He discussed options with council chief executive Garry Poole yesterday and would consult councillors on a way forward before the instant fines take effect on Tuesday.

The first official opportunity for councillors to address the issue was a committee meeting on April 15. It now looked likely that wardens would be instructed to issue courtesy notices to the owners of cars with bald tyres.

A Tauranga tyre retailer told the Bay of Plenty Times that $150 could buy two reasonable second-hand tyres in the smaller sizes, with most new tyres being in the hundred to high hundred-dollar range.

Councillor Clayton Mitchell said the instant fines were an "absolute joke" and needed to be discussed by the council first. He said it was not up to wardens to assess tyres if the car had a current warrant of fitness and he intended to raise it as an agenda item next month.

Deputy Mayor Kelvin Clout said he did not believe there was an appetite to put people off coming into shopping centres, particularly the CBD. "If we are over-zealous in policing these things, we are detracting from having a positive and vibrant city."

He saw more merit in giving motorists a grace period to make their tyres legal.

Councillor Steve Morris wanted parking wardens to take a more ambassadorial approach to policing tyres.

Councillor Rick Curach said the issue was the fine. He said those who could not afford new tyres probably could not afford the fine, so it would end up joining the millions of dollars in unpaid fines owed by New Zealanders.

Councillor Gail McIntosh said she wanted staff to be more ambassadorial than authoritarian, while Councillor Catherine Stewart said $150 instant fines did not line up with the vision for the council to cut red tape and be more user-friendly.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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