A suburban Auckland carpark has turned into a battle zone for towies, angry visitors and office workers.
The Herald on Sunday reported last week how a stubborn driver sat in his vehicle for more than an hour at the Penrose Business Plaza while it was hooked up to a tow truck.
The Asian man got back in his car when it was still connected after refusing to pay a fine when he had, according to the towing company, parked in the wrong place. He eventually paid $60 to have it released.
Witnesses contacted the paper challenging claims by Auckland Towing Co that its employee hadn't sworn and shouted at the driver. They also told of an ongoing war with towies at the site.
The chief executive of a computer firm in the 10-storey centre said he wrote a cheque last week to have an elderly man's car unhooked from a towtruck. The man was selling chocolates for the Special Olympics charity.
He said he also coughed up $250 to get a client's car back that had been towed while they were at lunch last Monday.
"The whole situation has got right out of hand," Jason Agnew, chief executive of IT company Belton, said. "We have been in the building five years and previously the parking was fine. But in January that all changed when towies started coming around up to five times a day and lifting any vehicles they could get their hands on.
"The whole thing is crazy because there is always at least a hundred empty car spaces as the building is more than half-empty. There is also a lack of proper parking signage."
Agnew said seeing an elderly fundraiser's car being towed was the final straw.
"The guy from the charity hadn't been in the building five minutes when the towie arrived," Agnew said. "The poor man was shaking and didn't have any money on him.
"He was trying to scrape the cash together from his charity box so I stepped in and paid his $60 fine by cheque."
Agnew said there was only a handful of designated visitor spaces in the largely empty carpark and his branded company cars had been towed for parking one space down from where they should be.
Call centre sales manager Jason Moult said he shifted his business from the plaza after paying more than $1200 in fines to Auckland Towing in the space of a few weeks. "Up until about six months ago we never paid for parking in our lease but then the landlord changed all that," Moult said. "I have no objection to paying for parking but the measures being taken to enforce this are ridiculous.
"The behaviour of some of the towies was appalling and some of my staff were getting into nasty confrontations with them, so it was time to move on."
Antony Ashford, boss of Grey Lynn-based Auckland Towing Co, was last night defiant. He insisted his firm wasn't heavy-handed.
"We have experienced a few issues with some people who work at the plaza and who seem to think they can park anywhere they like," he said. "As for my towie being rude, well, most people are polite unless they are provoked and that is what has happened to my guys on a few occasions."
Ashford added: "Most people who get fined are okay about it. It's the stickybeaks who come over and try to stir things up that cause problems."