An unlicensed parking warden verbally abused a man who asked to see his identification after he chalked his car’s tyre.
Christopher McLuskie had just parked at a shopping centre in New Plymouth when a man wearing a hi-viz vest appeared.
When asked if he was a security officer the man, John Wood, said it was none of his business and refused to produce any identification about who he was, who he worked for and was verbally abusive towards McLuskie and his wife.
“I was immediately suspicious because he was dressed quite scruffy, had sunglasses on, no identification displayed and his attitude was extremely poor,” McLuskie told NZME.
He said the confrontation escalated until he was finally able to force Wood to produce his identification and filmed it as he flashed it past him.
From there he was able to use Wood’s Certificate of Approval number to make a complaint to the Private Security Personnel and Private Investigators Licensing Authority.
The authority on Tuesday found Wood guilty of misconduct for running a property guarding service without the proper licence and for failing to show the licence he did have when asked.
Wood told the authority his company Naki Security had an informal contract with property managers of various private parks in New Plymouth to enforce parking services.
The authority noted he charged $100 cash to unclamp cars.
Wood holds a Certificate of Approval (COA) but neither he nor his company holds a security licence, which would grant him the legal ability to clamp, repossess and ticket vehicles. Acting as a property guard without a license carries a maximum fine of $40,000 for a sole trader or $60,000 for a business.
Wood told the authority he did not know he needed a separate licence and thought his COA was sufficient. However, a COA only allows a person to be employed or engaged by a license holder and not run their own security business.
Authority head Trish McConnell said Wood had held a COA since 2011 and should have known the rules.
“Someone with this length of experience in the security industry should be aware of the limitations of a certificate and that a licence is required to run a security business,” she said.
“In addition, Mr Wood advised both police and the property managers that he had a security licence. He therefore knew that he needed a licence rather than a certificate to be a self-employed property guard.”
When contacted by NZME Wood said he didn’t know that he needed to hold a security licence in order to clamp cars and enforce private parking.
“I wasn’t aware that I had to have anything else. No one told me.”
“I was never told it was anything else but legal. I had a COA which is what I thought I should have.”
Wood guessed he’d clamped roughly one car every two weeks and that his parking enforcement role was more of a “sideline thing”.
NZME asked Wood if he would refund motorists he had charged for unclamping given he wasn’t licensed to do so in the first place. He said he did not have a record of those he’d clamped. He also strongly refuted the authority’s statement that he charged cash only, saying he also took payment by Eftpos.
The Private Security Personnel and Private Investigators Act requires a COA holder to display their identification at all times and Wood told the authority the see-through pouch he usually wore it in had torn off so was carrying it in his pocket instead.
He admitted not showing McLuskie his identification when asked and McConnell found that he was in breach of the law by failing to do so.
“Mr Wood’s behaviour on the day was rude and confrontational and fell short of the conduct expected of an experienced security guard,” McConnell said.
“Mr Wood accepts that his behaviour towards Mr McLuskie was unacceptable and has apologised for this.”
McConnell said the information provided at the hearing raised questions about Wood’s suitability to hold a security licence as he didn’t appear to be aware of his obligations under the act. She also noted he had a “cavalier attitude” towards some people while working as a property guard.
At the hearing last month, Wood said he would remedy the situation immediately by applying for the correct licence but the authority noted he had yet to do so. Wood told NZME he had applied.
McConnell is yet to issue a formal penalty but in the interim ordered Wood was not to work as a property guard or to clamp vehicles and to apply for a security licence by September 4.
Jeremy Wilkinson is an Open Justice reporter based in Manawatū covering courts and justice issues with an interest in tribunals. He has been a journalist for nearly a decade and has worked for NZME since 2022.