It would be something of an understatement to say Napier City Council parking officer John McKelvie has walked a few kilometres over the years.

"We probably walk about 16 to 18km a day," he said.

That's impressive in itself but it's even more impressive when you take into account that he's been racking up those distances for going on 32 years.

"Probably about 60 sets of good shoes," he said with a smile.


He is a familiar face on the streets of Napier and Taradale where he was walked his beats since first taking on the parking job back in October 1986, and while often dubbed "the old fella" by his workmates, has no intention of calling it quits just yet because he enjoys it so much.

It would also be an understatement to say he likes meeting people because again, he's met quite a few.

It is the people factor, the being able to be part of keeping traffic moving fairly and freely and assisting people, and not just motorists, which he said he would miss if he gave it away.

It was not a job he had gone into planning to stay — more an interim until something else came along.

He had worked at Whakatu in the freezing industry for 17 years — starting out sweeping up and ending up as a senior foreman before the plant closed down.

"I thought ... what do I do now?"

Then he spotted a Napier City Traffic Department advertisement for a parking duties officer so arranged for an interview.

A couple of days later he got the call to say he had got the job.


He initially figured it would be a stop gap for maybe six to eight months, and after six months he had the opportunity to take up a job at a milk treatment station so went to his boss and said he wanted to move on.

But he was offered a rise in pay and asked to reconsider.

Which he did ... and he's still there today.

There were four officers when he started (there are six today) and the first job for the week back then was going around and winding up the manual clock meters.

Times have changed of course.

Now the nine volt electronic meters get a charge up twice a year.

He has also seen the rise of new payment technology.

The coins are still there but 'Parkmate' has also emerged where people can enter their code and their credit card is charged accordingly for the time.

"There are less individual meters now as there are more ticket machines being set up."

McKelvie said it was not just about issuing tickets and how many, it was having the presence on the streets and ensuring people stuck to the parking rules to ensure fair use for all.

And meeting and assisting people.

He and his colleagues were often stopped by visitors who asked for all sorts of advice and directions.

As well as some locals who, embarrassingly, had forgotten where they parked.

So a call would go out to his colleagues on their beats and they'd keep an eye out for their car.

He gets "a few words" from some people from time to time but works to be straight up and fair, keen to gain people's trust and respect ... but the moments of anger do emerge.

On one occasion he went to speak to a driver about an issue with his car and the man simply drove off.

"And over my foot."

The most serious was about 15 years ago when again he went to engage the driver but as he walked around the front of the car the man drove slowly forward and into him.

"He was prosecuted."

But it has not put him off approaching and meeting and working in with people.

He sees the ticketing for no warrants or registrations as part of the safety scene, and there was room for a final warning depending on the circumstances.

"There are sometimes some serious issues but you have to be relaxed when you deal with people."

McKelvie said he still occasionally questioned how he might have dealt with a situation differently.

"You're still learning every day really."

The officers work to six-week rosters working a week on each different beat — four of them in Napier, one in Taradale and one a more open mobile beat.

They are also trained up in first aid, and on two occasions during his nearly 32 years on the beat Mckelvie has been involved in two CPR assistance incidents — both had successful outcomes.

He paid credit to his "really good" employers, the Napier City Council, and felt comfortable in his role.

A long-standing one, which was put into perspective recently when a man approached and simply said "I remember you doing this when I was just a little kid."

And yes, he said with a smile.

"I have had a ticket."