"Absolute and utter frustration" is how one complainant has described Rotorua's i-Park system.

New details of the nature of complaints regarding the plagued system have emerged through an official information request to Rotorua Lakes Council.

In one complaint, sent to mayor Steve Chadwick, the writer said she wanted to "congratulate" the council and i-Park for bringing "a 53-year-old professional woman to tears".

Parking on Pukuatua St, the woman, whose name has been redacted for privacy reasons, attempted to pay for her parking but found the machine would not accept coins.

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"I get to work and call [the] council to advise them for the 15th (yes I am counting) time that this machine is still not working. I get told again to pay 'at any machine', yes, but you can't pay for a whole day. You have to go down every three hours to pay."

New details of the nature of complaints about the plagued system have emerged through an official information request to Rotorua Lakes Council. Photo / File
New details of the nature of complaints about the plagued system have emerged through an official information request to Rotorua Lakes Council. Photo / File

The woman said she then attempted to pay for parking at the council and was told they could not accept coins for parking.

The woman did not have a credit card and wouldn't use it anyway because of the extra fee levied on credit card payments, her December 3, 2019 email read.

"By now I was in tears."

The complainant said she would not have been able to return to the meter while at work.

"The absolute and utter frustration of this new scheme is beyond belief. The stress and upset not only to me but my colleagues is quite astounding."

She had experienced issues with the machines "at least 12 times in the past two months", and described discussions at her workplace about i-Park as "about the frustration, inflexibility, unfairness and total incompetence of the staff you deal with".

She finished the email asking why the machines could not be fixed "properly", why eftpos payment wasn't an option, why there was no app to top up parking and why "when we continually call or email can't we get the service and assistance … from an organisation that our rates pay for".

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Chadwick responded to the email, saying she was "really sorry" and that she had asked the chief executive Geoff Williams to look into the issues raised.

Chief executive office manager Craig Tiriana then asked council staff for further details about the problems with the i-Park system and how to respond to the complaint.

Tiriana also revealed he had received a ticket himself the day before - "in spite of [a] transaction going through on my bank account and the machine telling me I was successful".

Council customer solutions manager Valeta Duncan requested a log of faults for the machine from i-Park.

I-Park's response listed nine faults for the meter between March 10 and November 7, last year, the first three occurred on consecutive days.

Another complaint, received via Facebook around November 26, was from a man who said he had been ticketed for parking when two parking meters had blank screens.

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"I wrote away to have the fine removed as we always pay our parking. I have just received an update informing us they will not accept it. This is disgusting as we would have [paid] for the parking."

Another released email from Duncan, sent to council staff said the "consistent problem" with parking customers that receive infringements is "lack of information and understanding".

The council received about 100 calls a week regarding problems with paying for parking, with each call taking six to 10 minutes, she said.

"Many of these customers ... are extremely angry as they are confident they paid."

The official information request pertained to complaints received about the i-Park system in January, June and December 2019.

An original request had sought all complaints regarding the system but the council responded that it was "very broad" and "likely to take a substantial amount of staff time to collate" and would require a charge of $1216.

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Lobby group Evolve member Ryan Gray had been outspoken about the issues plaguing the i-Park system.

Lobby group Evolve member Ryan Gray said the council could consider
Lobby group Evolve member Ryan Gray said the council could consider "canning" the system temporarily until it is fixed in order to regain the public's confidence. Photo / File

An unsuccessful 2019 council candidate, Gray said the number and detail of the complaints came as "no surprise" and while the old meters "definitely had to go", the new system had "been a bit of a flop".

"It backs up everything I've heard from people in town and comments on social media."

He said the council could consider "canning" the system temporarily until it is fixed in order to regain the public's confidence in it, and alert level 3 might be a good time for a "soft launch".

"That would be an extreme measure but that should be on the table.

"[With Covid-19] the CBD is going to be facing issues they've never faced before, and if the car parking system is still going to be having these … issues … then that's just another reason to stop people coming back and getting the economy ticking over again."

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CBD business owner Craig Elliott, who runs hairdressing salon House of Elliott, said businesses were expecting "a new normal" around Covid-19, with strict guidelines to adhere to, and he hoped the long-awaited i-Park app would be up and running by now.

"Automated parking will help businesses in the CBD synchronise time pressures for services they offer. Flexible options are needed … for our patrons."

Craig Elliott, owner of House of Elliott hairdressers on Pukuatua St. Photo / File
Craig Elliott, owner of House of Elliott hairdressers on Pukuatua St. Photo / File

He said more versatility was needed to fix the parking system, suggesting a move to supply more free 15-minute zones, with a majority of 180-minute zones.

CBD worker zones could be scattered throughout, which he said would be helpful to businesses in the area.

Rotorua Lakes Council was approached for additional comment on this story, including Elliott and Gray's comments, but did not respond within deadline.

An i-Park spokesman has previously said the business was an agent of the council and was responsible for implementing the parking system according to the council's requirements.

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He said any requests for comments from i-Park were to be made through the council communications team.

In February, the council announced it would waive up to 2400 "unresolved disputes" relating to i-Park tickets.

It also said a mobile app would be available for parking from mid-February, and from February 23 there would be a simplified navigation on the parking kiosk screens.

COURT COSTS

The Rotorua Lakes Council also released numbers on parking fine cases that had been referred to the District Court.

From the time of the first ticket issued by i-Park (May 1, 2019), to December 31, 2019, 4704 cases were referred to the District Court.

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Of those, the council had won 540. Six had been returned to the council.

Of the cases won by the council, it had cost the organisation $16,200. The council said this was recovered. For those overturned by the court, the figure was $180.

There had been 1748 customer appeals upheld and 947 appeals that had stood.

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