Vaimoana Tapaleao is the New Zealand Herald's Pacific Affairs and People reporter.

Clamped and fined $200 after parking two minutes

Seema Prasad says she felt scared and intimidated after her vehicle was clamped in what she feels was a hard-line approach by a clamping company.

The Auckland woman and her husband, who did not want to be named, were parked outside a set of shops on Atkinson Ave, in Otahuhu, when her vehicle was clamped.

A man working for Elite Parking Services, said he had clamped their vehicle because they had parked in a carpark for customers going to the Food 4 Less complex.

The company is contracted by Food 4 Less to clamp vehicles belonging to people who park on their premises, but do not shop there. There are also several warning signs.

The couple, however, had been going to a shop right next door.

Prasad acknowledged they were probably in the wrong spot, but as there were many other spots available and they were simply picking up tickets, rather than shopping, they thought they would be okay. They were wrong.

After about two minutes of being away from their car, she said, the Prasads found their vehicle clamped - and a clamper demanding a $200 fee.

"He's demanding $200 off my husband to unclamp the car. I said: 'That's ridiculous! We're not paying you $200 to unclamp the car.

"It's two minutes - less than two minutes,'' she said.

"I said: 'Who are you working for?' He was wearing his high-vis after I had called 111 - then you see him come out in his uniform. His high-vis that's covering his ID which is stuck to his shirt pocket."

Prasad called police in the hopes of getting an officer to the scene to help them.

No one came, but she remained on the phone to authorities. She said she felt intimidated by the clamper.

"He walked up to my husband - and [the clamper] is quite a big guy. He walked up to my husband and was being intimidating. It's a scary situation for someone who's never been in that kind of situation.

"I said: 'You stop doing that. I'm calling 111. You cannot do that! You've done your business, you've clamped the car. We have to do whatever we have to do. You can't force us to pay the $200'."

The Prasads laid a formal complaint with police. Prasad also alleges the clamper shoved her as he walked past her vehicle.

Inspector Uraia Vakaruru, of Otahuhu Police, said they were investigating the incident and said they had received "multiple calls'' of complaints against the company, with reports in both the South Auckland and West Auckland areas in recent months.

"We are also aware a large amount of social media commentary in relation to the way they conduct their business,'' Vakaruru said.

"We have previously spoken to company management about the way they conduct their business and are continuing to encourage anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation, where they feel their safety is at risk, to call police.''

Elite Parking Services director, Steven Devantier, said they had a thorough appeals process in place and people who felt hard done by were encouraged to phone their call centre.

He acknowledged, however, that due to the nature of their job, people tended to be abusive towards them.

"It's not easy - it's quite often very scary and we've all got families to feed. And the reason why this industry even exists is because people continue to ignore that people think it's [okay] to park in somebody else's land.''

- NZ Herald

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