Kerre McIvor

Kerre McIvor is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Kerre McIvor: Towies aren't all meanies

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If your car gets towed it's highly likely to be your fault. Photo / Getty Images
If your car gets towed it's highly likely to be your fault. Photo / Getty Images

I know a lot of people put towies in the same "lower than a snake's underpants" category as parking wardens, politicians - and journalists - but I've never had a problem with towies. Once a towie was positively helpful.

When I was a student at Auckland Uni a decade or so ago, I got my car stuck in a pile of mulch and mud that was masquerading as a carpark. I was driving a big, heavy Club Sport so I couldn't inveigle a couple of likely lads to lift the back of the car out of the rut I'd spun my way into. And student parking was so haphazard that even if I could have got out of the hole I was blocked in by a couple of vehicles.

A bloke who'd been called to tow another car saw my predicament and offered to help. He moved the two cars blocking me with a delicacy and finesse that would have seen him crowned international pick-up-sticks champion and then towed me out of my hole. He brushed off my offer of payment, saying he was there anyway and it only took him a couple of minutes, and sent me on my way.

The other encounter I had with towies was entirely my fault. I'd parked where I shouldn't. I came back, found the car gone and caught a cab to the towing company. They were perfectly pleasant and professional, I collected the car and have never been so foolish again.

So I have a bit of sympathy for the towing company that was found to be at fault in a recent Disputes Tribunal decision. Steven Ooi parked his van in a Wellesley St private car park without permission, outside business hours.

His van was removed by Super City Towing and the tribunal ruled that the company should pay Ooi $526 because they hadn't completed a tow authority - a bit of paperwork that needs to be signed by a police officer, a traffic warden or the landlord - and more worryingly, that Ooi should be allowed to get off scot-free for using a private car park because he hadn't done any harm.

The Automobile Association is crowing, calling the case a victory for motorists.

Now hang on a minute. Somebody, be they private individual or company, is paying top dollar for that park, which they may want to use outside normal 9 to 5 business hours. They might need to work on the weekends. Or they might want to go to a show in the city and leave their car in the park they have paid for - neither of which they can do if Ooi has his van parked there.

And it's no good just taking the next park along because that might inconvenience the rightful owner of that car park. If the AA has its way there won't be a vacant car park because every Tom, Dick and Harriette has come to town and parked in every single private car park space.

After all, what sort of mug would actually pay to park in a carpark building when there are people who have paid for car park spaces - and left them empty?

I live in a street where parking is at a premium and I have no problem letting people park in our car bay if they ask nicely and I'm going to be away for an hour or so.

But I object to people who assume they can park because the drive is empty.

They must assume I'll be at work and no one will ever know. But I work at nights and when I return home and find a car in the drive it takes quite some time to track down the owner.

I would never have them towed but it certainly takes the shine off a day. Admittedly, this has only happened once or twice, but in light of the Disputes Tribunal decision I expect a lot more motorists will assume they have every right to park in my driveway. After all, I'm clearly not using it. And the Disputes Tribunal and the AA seem to think that means it's open slather.

• Kerre McIvor is on Newstalk ZB, Monday-Thursday, 8pm-midnight.

- Herald on Sunday

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