Last month I received a letter from the Ministry of Justice.
I threw it into the basket along with other unopened letters. Unless it's a letter I've been waiting for, that l open right away, all others are left to be opened until such time as I get around to it. Usually once or twice a month.
Email has largely replaced my letterbox.
It must have been a fortnight before I opened the few letters in the basket.
Read more: Merepeka Raukawa-Tait: Fresh faces bring fresh ideas
Merepeka Raukawa-Tait: Young filmmakers tackle big topics at Youngatira Film Festival
Merepeka Raukawa-Tait: Fresh faces bring fresh ideas
The one from the Ministry of Justice informed me if I did not appear before a Deputy Registrar on the 10th July 2018 to explain why I had not paid my outstanding fines a warrant for my arrest would be issued. True, there it was in black and white.
Apparently I had six unpaid parking fines totalling $273. Two from 2015 and four from 2016. If these remained unpaid after July 10 I would be arrested.
It was already July 23 so the letter had the desired effect. I got rattled. I worried I could get a knock on the door at any moment. I live just across the road from the Rotorua police station so I was very tempted to walk in and give myself up. Save them the trouble of coming after me.
My imagination started to run wild.
I pictured myself sitting in the council chambers, chairing my standing committee, being confronted by two police officers. They arrest me in front of everyone. I ask them if they could wait until the meeting is finished. I am informed "we're not waiting for your convenience".
Would they send two officers I wondered? Probably not. They must know I wouldn't cause a fuss, one officer would do.
I had no idea I had outstanding parking fines. But it doesn't surprise me. Over the years I have been a shocker with parking fines.
I park up thinking I'll just pop into a specific shop for a few minutes, paying only the minimum amount in the parking meter. Then I decide while I'm down that end of town I'll pop into another shop I've been meaning to call into. Then I'll pass a café and duck in for a quick cup of coffee. Before you know it I've gone well over my half an hour limit. Easy to do.
I wonder where these fines have been hanging out for the past few years. Last year I went to the courthouse and paid an outstanding parking fine. I always ask if they can check to see if there are any more in the pipeline. No, nothing I was told. Then suddenly these appear.
But it would not surprise me if I get another letter from the Ministry of Justice in a few months with a cheque for double payment. This is not uncommon. I never check to see if it's correct, I just say "thank you" and bank the cheque.
Of course I paid the outstanding parking fines. I don't usually have cash on me but on this occasion I did. I handed over $300 but they didn't have the correct change, well they wouldn't these days would they.
So now I'm in credit for $27.
I have thought of leaving a note on the parking meters I use now stating "if the meter has expired I'm good for it". But maybe my warped sense of humour would not be appreciated.
This week another letter from the Ministry of Justice. It got opened straight away. "Pay your outstanding fine now to prevent further actions. Amount due $273." This time I am warned they could: suspend my driver's licence or clamp my car, stop my travelling overseas, take money from my income or bank account, or I may not be able to get a loan, credit card or hire purchase.
I am told this is a standard ministry letter, whether your outstanding fines total $273 or $27,300.
How about the ministry investing in a computer system that actually cross-references requests for payments of outstanding fines and payments received?
And how about changing the language. "Come and talk to us, we'll help you clear your outstanding fines."
I won't be paying them another visit. I've got my receipt and they've got my $27. But what if I get one of those letters with a refund cheque for overpayment? Bank it or query it? No guessing on that score.
• Merepeka Raukawa-Tait is a Rotorua district councillor, Lakes District Health Board member and chairs the North Island Whanau Ora Commissioning Agency. She writes, speaks and broadcasts to thwart political correctness.