Wellington drivers to be refunded thousands of dollars of parking fines
I first wrote about it here.
According to information released through the Local Government Official Information and Meeting Act, parking wardens ignored policy in issuing $10,860 worth of tickets at clearways in the past two years. Most were issued in one street since July 2010 when a covert “dash-cam” - a Council vehicle with a camera - was introduced. This dashcam has taken thousands of photographs of up to six parked cars in one frame – that’s up to $360 per frame for the Council if unchallenged.
According to the Council’s parking manual [not online], infringement notices are “not issued…until six minutes after a (clearway) restriction begins, or within six minutes of when the restriction ends”. Yet in the past two years, 181 were – including people parked for a matter of seconds, still in their vehicles. The Council’s manual also states that “when the person in charge of the vehicle is present, then he or she in the first instance should be moved on”.
But instead hundreds have been covertly ticketed; most of the 181 were ticketed from the dash-cam in the past year, three-quarters actively targeted in Bowen Street moments after parking.
I asked Parkwise Manager Denis de Groet why his staff were repeatedly breaching council policy. "I'm not going to tell you," he said.
After the decision to photograph cars within this six-minute “grace” period, another decision was made to again ignore council policy, and spend ratepayers money by getting 154 vehicle registration checks, posting tickets to all registered owners – many of whom simply paid up.
As a direct result of my request, the Council’s Parking Services Manager, Colleen Thessman told me that $5100 (excluding legal costs) will be refunded to 85 vehicle owners as their tickets should not have been issued or enforced in the first place. An additional 16 tickets ($960) - about to be enforced through the courts or currently in the court system – will be waived. In addition, 76 vehicle owners - most parked in Bowen Street, had to go through the arduous process of successfully appealing tickets they should never have got in the first place.
I was one of these 76. I was told I was “considered to negatively impact on the safety and congestion around our city” after parking for 30-45 seconds without even turning my car engine off. I wrote to Thessman who told me that, despite the council’s policy, my ticket would not be waived - and to request a court hearing if I refused to pay. So I wrote to the Council’s Chief Executive - and later got the ticket waived, interestingly, a few days after I sent my OIA.
In Bowen Street, parking wardens have historically hidden among roadside bushes out of sight of motorists, emerging within the six minute “window” to ticket unsuspecting drivers who locked and left their vehicles. Other drivers drove away to avoid being ticketed –and Parking Services managers told me that as a result, the Council was unable to generate enough money – hence the dash-cams.
Now, drivers, realising that they are at parking spaces minutes early, quickly vacate- only to be pinged $60 from the impeccably timed dash-cam.
Yet Colleen Thessman claimed that the council had no idea that Council policy was being breached– despite my photographic evidence to the parking warden contracts manager as early as last year. I asked a couple of weeks back whether owners of other vehicles in my “dash cam” photo would similarly get their tickets waived or refunded – Thessman said no, they wouldn’t.
This week she changed her mind.
Labels: Wellington City Council