Ticketers prowl in the dark

By Alice Neville

A furious driver has slammed council chiefs after being issued with a $200 infringement notice at 2.17am.

Lisa Ralph spotted the ticket under her windscreen wiper when she left her house in the central Auckland suburb of Eden Terrace to go to work.

She initially thought the notice, for an expired warrant of fitness, had been issued the previous day and she had not noticed it.

But on closer inspection, she discovered it had been issued in the middle of the night.

"I couldn't believe it," said the 31-year-old sales manager. "Who is the council hiring - P freaks?"

Auckland City Council parking services manager Rick Bidgood said the organisation had enforcement officers on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

He said tickets issued after-hours were fewer than 10 per cent of the daily average, and officers were not told to actively search for misdemeanours in the middle of the night.

"On a callout, an officer might notice there is another issue. They can't choose not to issue a ticket, but in the wee hours of the morning stuff is a lot more relaxed.

"I wouldn't call it common, but it certainly does happen."

In 2006, residents of Auckland's Sandringham were up in arms about a midnight ticket blitz in their quiet cul-de-sac. Then-mayor Dick Hubbard promised to look into the situation, but Ralph's complaint generated little sympathy from his successor, John Banks.

"My car is warranted and registered and I always pay for my own parking tickets and get on in life," Banks said.

Ralph wasn't the only person with a ticket grievance this week.

One of her colleagues, Claudia Plowman, received a $200 fine for an obscured number plate when she parked outside the pair's city centre workplace on Monday afternoon.

Plowman said the plate was not obscured, but slightly bent in the corner, and had been for three years since a minor accident.

"Police have pulled me over for random checks and have never said anything about the licence plate."

In the nine-month period to March 31, Auckland City Council parking officers issued 31,164 tickets between 7am and 7pm. But their revenue from tickets has been declining. For the 2008-2009 financial year, the total was just over $20 million, down almost $5 million from the previous year.

Bidgood was adamant the council was not getting tougher on parking misdemeanours for financial reasons.

"Our role is to deter people from breaking the law. There is no other push."

Banks advised Aucklanders who felt they have been unfairly ticketed to write to the council, but urged them to follow his example: "I never like it, but I don't complain."

Neither Ralph nor Plowman are planning to part with their $200 without a fight. Plowman has written to the council with photographs of her licence plate and Ralph plans to query the time she was ticketed in writing. She got a warrant immediately after the ticket was issued and thinks the council should give her some breathing room.

If the powers that be don't budge, Ralph and Plowman could always take their disputes to court.

In the year to March 31, 347 parking matters went to hearings at the Auckland District Court but the number of citizens who won was less than 10 per cent.

THEY FOUGHT THE LAW

March 2009
Wellington lawyer and prolific ticket fighter Paul McBride takes his council to court over 18 parking tickets. He gets off three, but isn't so lucky with the other 15.

August 2008
Johnny de Monchy of Christchurch receives two parking tickets in one day. Furious, he rips up the second and throws it on the footpath - and gets a ticket for littering.

May 2008
Te Awamutu lawyer Jim Parlane takes Hamilton City Council to court over a $12 parking ticket. The council reportedly spent $8500 on the prosecution - then withdrew the charges at the last minute.

April 2008
Blair Christopher Hamilton loses his appeal to the Invercargill High Court over a $10 parking ticket and is ordered to pay $800 costs.

- Herald on Sunday

Have you had a problem with parking wardens? Email alice.hudson@heraldonsunday.co.nz

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