Disabled parking meters installed in Whangarei CBD lasted less than a day, with the council apologising for their installation.
Mobility permit holders expressed surprise yesterday at the appearance of the meters. Disabled parking in Whangarei had always been free, even in pay and display areas, though permits cost $50 for five years.
The four Cameron St "disabled parking meters" charging $2.50 per hour appeared overnight on Thursday and were removed about 4.30pm yesterday.
Whangarei District Council group manager infrastructure and services Simon Weston said the meters were intended to control rogue parking in the new Cameron St laneway.
The meters were removed after inquiries from the Advocate and disability advocacy group NorthAble, pointing out disabled parking was formerly free.
"It was an error on our behalf, we didn't realise [permit holders] weren't paying...
We really apologise," Mr Weston said.
The council had been grappling with ways to stop people parking in the laneway, except for in marked mobility spaces. The meters were designed to show the spaces people could park in, more clearly than the pay and display machines formerly in the area.
Mr Weston said he did not readily have information about how much the meters' installation cost, "but obviously they won't be wasted". He said they could potentially be used elsewhere in standard parking areas.
Jonny Wilkinson, a member of the council's Disability Advisory Group, said it seemed there had been an internal communication breakdown at the council, meaning his group were not asked about the idea.
"Sometimes the council does things which have unintended consequences which affect the disabled community. We tend to be the last cab off the rank that people think of," Mr Wilkinson said.
Northland Boccia president Scott Burdett said he thought "what on earth is going on?".
"Our disabled parking passes cost $50 and I was fuming to think we'd then have to pay more to park. Many disabled people are on benefits and WINZ won't give you any extra for parking," he said.
After learning they were being taken down he said: "Wow, that's fantastic news, I'm pleased they have taken them down."
Mr Burdett said it would be nice if the council consulted the disabled community before making decisions that affect them rather than "things just popping up overnight like this".
NorthAble trust chair Vince Cocurullo said he was "outraged" when he saw the meters.
"For many disabled and elderly people, getting around the city is already difficult enough as it is, then all of a sudden you've got to pay. It was a big stuff up... I'm really glad they're being removed," he said.