Parking wardens ask nicely in Dunedin

By Chris Morris of the Otago Daily Times

PLEASE park here. Photo / Thinkstock
PLEASE park here. Photo / Thinkstock

Parking wardens are issuing polite requests, rather than parking tickets, as part of a charm offensive in Dunedin.

The result is a dramatic decline in the number of parking infringement notices issued in the past year, and a fall in revenue for the Dunedin City Council.

Figures released to the Otago Daily Times show the council's 10 parking officers together issued 63,691 tickets in the 2011-12 financial year.

That was down from 75,780 tickets issued by 11 officers the previous financial year.

The change represents a decline of about 15 per cent in tickets issued, and means revenue for the council dropped from $2.55 million in 2010-11 to $2.21 million in 2011-12; $383,000 less than budgeted.

Council development services manager Kevin Thompson said he was "more than comfortable" with the outcome, despite the financial result.

"Our aim is to get compliance, by warning someone first, rather than just issuing a ticket.

"The revenue has dropped ... but, as I've always said, it's not how much money we're making."

The change had been "very favourably" received, as most motorists were happy to comply and avoid a ticket, he said.

"If they're asked to move, we would say 95 per cent, if not more, moved."

He denied the new approach encouraged motorists to push the limits, saying that was not supported by public feedback.

The lenient approach applied to motorists committing minor infringements, such as parking on a bus stop or an authorised vehicle park.

Those overstaying on parking meters were asked to move if still in their vehicles, otherwise tickets were issued.

A zero-tolerance approach applied where safety was an issue, such as motorists parking on broken yellow lines or double-parking outside schools.

The drop in revenue from parking tickets was partially offset by the decision not to replace one parking officer who retired in March.

The figures were released yesterday after an ODT request under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987.

The figures showed about 50 per cent escaped the ticket - up from about 48 per cent in 2010-11 - after writing to the council with an excuse. The council received 4987 excuses in 2011-12 and waived 2491 tickets as a result.

The council was also owed $1.6 million in unpaid parking fines being pursued through the courts, some of which dated back years, the figures showed.

Mr Thompson said the figure fluctuated from month to month, but was near the highest it had been in 10 years.

That was perhaps in part due to continuing tough economic conditions and the financial positions of those issued tickets, he suspected.

- Otago Daily Times

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