It's about to get much harder to avoid a parking fine in Auckland.
The days of dusting chalk marks off your tyres or arguing with a parking warden are over - new licence plate recognition cameras fitted to parking inspectors' cars will automatically scan your number plate and work out if you've overstayed your welcome.
The camera cars, being rolled out by Auckland Transport, are thought to be a New Zealand first. They will initially be used in residents' parking zones but there are plans for them to cover other time-restricted areas too.
Auckland Transport issues millions of dollars in parking tickets each year, though it was not able to immediately reveal a full breakdown of all infringements.
In the new scheme, cameras will scan the car's number plate, and work out if it belongs to a resident with a permit or voucher to park in that zone. If not, the cameras will capture an image of the car's surroundings, such as street markings and trees, its position on GPS, and the exact position of the air valves on its tyres.
Two hours later the officer will drive the exact same route, and the cameras will capture the same images. They can tell whether a car has moved - even by an inch - thanks to the position of the air valves.
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"Wheels rotate from drive to steer at different revolutions," said parking compliance manager Rick Bidgood.
"The chances of your valve stems being in exactly the same position after being driven anywhere is like winning Lotto Monday and Wednesday for a couple of weeks in a row."
At the end of the day the warden will look over the images by hand, confirm the infringement, and issue a ticket.
Bidgood is extremely confident in the system's accuracy, having trialled it intensively.
But it can't issue tickets on its own. That will still be done by the parking warden at the end of each day, when they check each matched image to ensure the camera got it right.
One car is already running, and five more are rolling out from February, Bidgood said.
They will initially be used in residents' parking zones in St Mary's Bay, Freeman's Bay, Ponsonby, Grey Lynn and Arch Hill. Zones are also being extended in Mt Eden and Parnell and a new one in Eden Terrace.
Bidgood expected residents to be delighted by the change, which will see over stayers gone from their streets.
To rotate through these areas on foot every two hours, AT would need 21 dedicated officers. With staff stretched too thin, streets are patrolled intermittently and non-compliant parkers often get off scot-free.
The cameras will let wardens patrol every resident-zoned street every two hours, driving at 30km/h.
It all adds up to efficiency, Bidgood said.
There's plenty of other work his officers could be doing - such as making sure school drop-offs are safe and keeping clearways clear. They also work closely with police, providing access to data and scanning for vehicles of interest or stolen cars.
Bidgood also wants his 168 parking wardens to get ANPR technology on their smartphones this year so they can scan plates, get alerts of any over stayers, and issue tickets on the spot.
In his ideal world, nobody would ever get parking tickets because there would be 100 per cent compliance.
Bidgood said the cameras were aimed at the vast majority of drivers who would comply with the law but there were those who would continue to game the system.
One local business paid a homeless man to wash the chalk marks off staff cars. Another business in College Hill had a group of 7-8 staff who methodically move all their cars along one space every two hours.
Technically that met the restrictions, Bidgood said.
The Automobile Association warns thatthe new technology should be used to change behaviour, not simply to raise more revenue for AT.
Mark Stockdale, the AA's principal advisor for regulations, said the new technology could shift the balance of power back toward residents who could not find parks on their own street due to other commuters.
A higher likelihood of being caught breaching time limits could encourage those commuters to use nearby long-term parking facilities or public transport, which would be positive.
"Where that's a problem is if there's not adequate parking in the vicinity. What AA wouldn't like to see is an increase in ticketing which doesn't subside because they don't have any other option. Continual ticketing won't fix that."
He wanted AT to monitor ticketing rates under the new system. If the initial spike was not followed by a drop off as behaviour changed, that would suggest a lack of other options for commuters, which AT would need to rectify.
He also wanted to see AT using a "carrot and stick" approach, including encouraging parkers to use the AT parking app which could remind them when they were approaching the two-hour limit.
The Privacy Commission said it had not been consulted on the new technology, but assumed if information was being used to identify specific individuals then AT would have done a privacy impact assessment.
Spokesman Feilidh O'Dwyer said the Privacy Act only applied to personal information.
Dwyer said in this case it was unlikely that the collection of number plate information, on its own, was the collection of personal information to which the Privacy Act would apply.