John Weekes is an NZME News Service reporter based in Wellington.

Cheerful bunch in a ticketing mood

More than 300,000 parking tickets were given out in Auckland last year.

Parking in a clearway can cause a lot of distress to peak-hour traffic.  Photo / Doug Sherring
Parking in a clearway can cause a lot of distress to peak-hour traffic. Photo / Doug Sherring

It takes about 100 seconds to pull up on the clearway, close the car door, run inside the video store, and find a movie for a drizzly evening.

It also takes about this long to issue a parking ticket.

More than 300,000 infringements were recorded in Auckland last year, an average of nearly 35 an hour and netting on average $773,203 a month.

Although popular culture suggests everyone hates parking wardens, those the Herald on Sunday met this week were a cheerful bunch. Most said only a minority of "customers" were hostile.

Auckland Transport parking enforcement manager Rick Bidgood said staff were sensitive about negative attitudes and last month amended their operations accordingly. "Just before Christmas we actually reduced our enforcement so we weren't seen as evil."

Parking wardens go to around 3500 requests for assistance each month. These call-outs often include vehicles preventing people getting in or out of properties.

The busiest blockage points were:

• Erson Ave, in Royal Oak

• Hepburn St, Freemans Bay

• Esplanade Rd, Mt Eden

• Rose Rd, Grey Lynn

• Hewson St, Ellerslie

• Franklin Rd, Freemans Bay

Figures for the past two years indicate you're least likely to get ticketed in January, but you're probably least likely to be in town then too. The big ticket months are May and August. The average value of infringement notices last year was $30.32.

Auckland Transport's parking officers had heard every excuse imaginable, and Bidgood said motorists needed to be reminded they cannot set down or pick up passengers on broken yellow lines, in a clearway during operating times, or at any bus stop.

Bidgood said choke points in the main arterial routes were of greatest concern because even one car on a clearway could cause agony for hundreds of commuters during rush hour.

Of the five clearways for which people get in most trouble, four - Cook St, Hobson St, Albert St and Waterloo Quadrant - are in the CBD. The only suburban strip to feature is New North Rd, in Kingsland, from around Kingsland Station to Morningside Drive.

"Most car parks don't tow a great deal, compared to us," Bidgood said. Paperwork takes longer than attaching a vehicle to a tow truck. Only officers can authorise a tow from public land. Both they and tow-truck drivers complete extensive paperwork before contacting police to prevent towed drivers thinking their cars were stolen. Officers also arrange towing of dumped cars.

The Ministry for Business Industry and Enterprise said towing fees for parking on public land were limited by the Transport (Towage Fees) Notice 2004. "Landowners can only claim from you the expenses they reasonably incurred ... if consumers believe they have been overcharged for the cost of having their vehicle towed, they should compare fees with other towing operators," spokesman Britton Broun said.

Storage costs and wages can add to the fee. If charges are excessive, action can be taken through the Disputes Tribunal. The ministry had no plans to regulate towing charges for private operators or towage from private land.

As the city grows, Bidgood said, he hoped public transport would reduce Aucklanders' dependence on cars - and the temptation to park illegally.

Clear signs of parking trouble

Wendy Sigvertsen shrugs her shoulders as she looks at her $130 fine for parking in a Symonds St clearway.

"I figure if he's going to let me off, being nice to him would be the way to go. But he's not going to bloody let me off."

Parking officer Joel has some helpful advice. "Wherever you park, always look at the sign," he says.

Sigvertsen, a midwife, wonders if her colleagues need a special dispensation.

"It's very hard for midwives in the city, but if we started getting special consideration then everyone else would want it."

Sigvertsen admits fault and is told she has 28 days to pay the fine.

Auckland Transport parking-enforcement manager Rick Bidgood says Sigvertsen is a good customer. She didn't blame anyone or anything else.

"With quite a lot of interactions we get, there's a sheer lack of ownership," Bidgood says. "They've made a choice to park there."

As a truck pulls away, two women park further down Symonds St next to a clearway sign. The women step on to the pavement.

Bidgood waves at the women and point to the clearway sign. It takes a few seconds for the driver to see it. She mouths a one-syllable obscenity before hopping back in the car.

- Herald on Sunday

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