We live in a suburb that is half an hour's walk into the heart of the city and about a 15-minute bus ride. It's a commuters' dream. Drive in from the burbs first thing in the morning, park up all day and either walk or bus to your inner-city workplace.
We also lived next door to a college for budding hippies until the college was sold six months ago. The courses in aromatherapy and massage and the like were very popular so we had lots of lovely chilled people coming and going from the street.
And since we first moved here, our little shopping village has transformed, with people from all over Auckland coming for the bars and the hairdressers and the organic food store and the natural fibre babywear. Which means that there has always been and continues to be pressure on parking in the street. We're okay. We have two off-street parks. So we've never had to park a million miles away and trudge back to the house, cursing all the visitors from West Auckland and Glenfield.
But we have plenty of people parking on the verge outside our house – and it sets my teeth on edge when I see a car parked up on the grass. Not because I'm possessive about the grass strip outside our place or because I think people are taking liberties but because we have the most beautiful old trees in our street and I'm worried that every time a car parks on the roots of the tree, it reduces the life of it exponentially.
The trees have cost us a small fortune – when the tree roots interfere with your old clay sewerage pipes, it tests your love and commitment to their continued existence. But they were here long before us and hopefully they'll be here for years after we're gone and they're so beautiful in spring, forming a gorgeous green canopy the length of the street, I can even forgive them a five-figure fix-it job for the pipes.
I have a connection with the lovely old tree outside our house and I want to protect it from people looking for a free park. If one of our parks is vacant, I'll always offer to let people use it. They've been very good about leaving when they say they will so I'll keep offering. But I really would prefer it if people kept off the grass.
I haven't got to the stage of leaving passive aggressive notes under the windscreen wiper of the offending vehicles because I know how hard it is to get from A to B in this city and I don't want to add to anybody's stress. The "hey man, live and let live" vibe from the hippie college must have permeated my consciousness during the time we were neighbours.
But when I heard that Auckland Transport wants a law change allowing it to fine people for parking on grass roadside berms, a little bit of me cheered inside. AT's Traffic Bylaw actually prohibits parking on verges. But the Land Transport Act rules mean "no parking" signs must be installed every 100m to enforce the ban, which is an absolute nonsense.
Auckland Council is looking for the rest of the country's 78 councils at this weekend's Local Government New Zealand conference to lobby the Ministry of Transport for a law change. While I'm all for discouraging people from parking on tree roots, I can understand why others who have completely clear verges outside their homes, might want to make the most of them.
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After all, the council has told home owners that they are now responsible for the care and the maintenance of the jolly things. They can't have their cake and eat it too. And while more and more people have been crammed into the city, very little thought has been given on how best to provide for the increasing population – including the provision of car parks. And I suspect that by making it even more difficult to find a place to park, it's another attempt to get us out of our cars and into public transport or onto the cycleways.
I think AT needs to take this on a case-by-case, street-by-street basis even if they do get the law changed. And just for a change, work with ratepayers rather than seeing them as perennial cash cows.