Ensuring that people don't illegally occupy mobility car parks can be a nightmare, says a Whangārei property manager after the long-lasting issue has come back into focus with Dr Lance O'Sullivan smashing the window of a parking offender.
The former New Zealander of the Year publically apologised after he threw a brick through a car window because it was parked in a mobility spot.
"Dozens and dozens of times in the past five years, we've experienced this awkward situation where we go to find a car park for our boy who has a powered wheelchair, and we find that it's occupied," O'Sullivan said in a Facebook video.
His youngest son Lance Junior has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.
Jonny Wilkinson, chief executive of Tiaho Trust which advocates for people with disabilities in Northland, said it was easy to take it as a personal offence when people without permission take away mobility car spaces.
He said he used to confront offenders – though without smashing their windows – but he doesn't do that anymore.
Rather than confronting, Wilkinson recommended informing authorities.
According to Wilkinson, the Whangārei District Council (WDC) was doing a good job in policing car parks on council-owned land.
"The problem is private land with supermarkets and shopping centres. No one is there to patrol the car parks. There is a wide range of responses, but most of them are not ahead of patrolling their car parks."
He believes it required a combination of both, more policing and shift of mindset for repeating offenders, to improve the situation.
WDC encourages people to phone its office when they notice people parking in the wrong space.
"Members of the public who see anyone parking inappropriately/without displaying a permit should phone council to report any issues," a WDC spokesperson said.
"Council does carry out enforcement in relation to disability car parks with a number of infringements being issued for this particular parking offence each year."
There were about 140 infringements between April last year and the beginning of lockdown in the district.
Allan Brown, manager of the Okara Park Shopping Centre, described policing their car park as a nightmare.
"We have someone to patrol the car park, but it's really hard because people just don't care."
He said Okara had 1200 car spaces with more mobility car spaces than legally required by council.
"We ring the tow truck when we see someone parking on the wrong spot, but in nine out of 10 cases, the person is gone by the time the tow truck arrives, or they abuse the person who is patrolling," Brown said.
On Facebook group Disabled Parking offenders NZ Name 'n' Shame, members post photos of parking offenders from across the country and exchange ideas on how to address the issue within their community.
Several locations across Northland – including Whangārei and Paihia – have been mentioned recently.