Brian Edwards Media

Highway Robbery by the Ladies and Gentlemen of the Auckland City Council

I am not someone who thinks that parking officers are Satan’s spawn. Indeed I wrote a post a couple of years ago, Hug  a Parking Officer Today, in which I defended this misunderstood and much maligned occupation:

‘Parking officers make a significant contribution to the smooth and safe running of traffic in our towns and cities. They greatly increase our chances of finding a parking space.  They spend much of their time giving advice to and helping the general public. Most of us are completely unaware of any of this. But we’re unlikely to forget the parking ticket on our windscreen or the fine we had to pay. So the average parking officer is subjected to sarcasm, verbal abuse and often racist comments every day.’

From time to time I get a parking ticket myself. I’m not rapt about it, but I’ve probably got away with overstaying the allotted time more often than I’ve had to retrieve one of these billets doux  from underneath my wipers.

But on Sunday I had an experience which for the first time brought me into the camp of those who believe the parking officer’s principal function is to garner revenue for his or her local body, rather than to ensure ‘the sure and safe running of traffic in our towns and cities’.

We were teaching all day. Between our morning and afternoon sessions we had an hour for lunch. But the first session ran over and we ended up with only half an hour to find somewhere to get a bite to eat. Less easy than you might think on a Sunday in central Auckland. We decided to park in Shortland Street where our studios are located and where our second session would be taking place. There was plenty of parking and our little Smart Car duly took up half a parking space just opposite High Street where we were sure we could grab a coffee and a sandwich. We reckoned we had about 25 minutes to find a cafe, order, eat, pay, get back to the car and head up the street to the studio. We actually made it in about 20 minutes. There was a ticket under the wiper blades.   

Now, OK, we’d assumed that parking on Sunday was free. Our own fault. We should have checked.

The ‘Stationary Vehicle Offence Infringement Notice’ read:

Offence: PARKED FAILING TO DISPLAY A VALID PARKING FEE RECEIPT – AUCKLAND

Start Time:  12.40pm

End Time    12.48 pm

Infringement Fee:  $40.00

Whoa there! $40? The last time I got a parking ticket it was 12 bucks. If it had been $15 or even $20 now, I might have thought it  was a bit steep. But this was extortionate. [adjective from the verb ‘extort’  – ‘to obtain (money, a promise, a concession, etc.) from a reluctant person by threat, force, importunity etc.’ New Shorter Oxford Dictionary]

Le mot juste, mes amis! Le mot juste!

$40 for 8 minutes; $5 a minute; or, if you want to be pedantic about it, $2 a minute for each of the 20 minutes we were actually there. And $2 is precisely  what the Auckland City Council would have been entitled to if we hadn’t assumed they’d have the heart, the common decency,  not to bilk people on a Sunday. Silly us.

So the penalty for parking for 8 or 20 minutes (take your pick)  without displaying a valid parking fee receipt, on a Sunday,  in a street with no shops, businesses or cafes open and plenty of available parking is 20 times the cost of legally parking there for half an hour. The punishment does not fit the crime.  It is unreasonable, excessive, disproportionate.  It cannot be defended.

So my conclusion  is this:  You are, ladies and gentlemen of the Auckland City Council, bandits, muggers, pickpockets, pilferers, pirates, plunderers and stickup artists. Your profession is, in the most literal sense of the words, highway robbery. Small wonder the poor souls you send out there to do your dirty work, are so reviled.

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10 Comments:

  1. If you can’t pay the fine, don’t do the crime.

  2. Evidently as you got out of your car you were observed by a warden who muttered, “ha, there goes a rich prick; let’s sock him!’

    Seriously all that attitude does is ensure everyone goes to suburban malls, and city centres are lifeless places at weekends populated only by prostitutes and traffic wardens both vainly touting for trade.

    JC: I’d be happy to agree with your assessment, Ben – but we were driving a Smart car! Hardly the badge of the plutocracy!

  3. Ignorantia juris non excusat

  4. Normally I find you a sensible and level headed writer, but this time you’ve come across as a whiney git.

    – High St has been pay and display on a Sunday since around 2003 or 2004, as I recall. This is not a new development.
    – Failure to display a ticket has been $40 for a long while. That fine hasn’t gone up in years.
    – Had you bought a ticket and gone over time, your fine would have likely been only $12.

    You screwed up. Suck it up and learn the lesson for next time.

  5. Parking wardens have also been sworn in to give tickets to vehicles that are legally parked but have expired registrations – cost $200. This occurred while my wife was at the business paying the registration. Alas, my well written defense with proof and time of payment held no sway with the chief parking officer. Pay up sonny. So yes, parking wardens are bandits and tax collectors.

  6. I sympathise if-No easily viewable signs were visable stating the conditions(remember Gary Mccormicks fight).A 5 minute allowance was made for you to arrange change for the meter.It was a personal issue with you and the warden.The money is used for something reasonable -not more wardens and meters.

  7. You shouldn’t have a Smart car Brian.
    I have seen, and probably so has the parking warden seen, Rodney Hide in his Smart car. With Rodney’s popularity in Auckland you didn’t have a chance. The tinking would have gone “Same car, obviously a similar person, so DO HIM”.
    Come back to Wellington. All is forgiven. No parking meters in use on Saturday or Sunday.

  8. Yes parking fines like speeding fines are taxes; but they are unique in the usual taxation-world by being entirely voluntary.

    We desperately need more of them to reduce the tax burden on those of us who are prepared to obey the rules!

  9. a parking ticket in Sydney can exceed A$200 – consider yourself lucky!

  10. Having been socked for $412 by an Auckland City parking warden in a single incident (exp WoF, exp rego, over time on ticket) I don’t have a great deal of love for wardens. But life goes on.

    The one redeeming feature of an over time ticket is that your car can’t be ticketed again until the car is moved. Provided that your park doesn’t become a clear-way zone in the afternoon, you can effectively get all-day on-street parking in the CBD for only $2 (the initial meter fee) plus $12 (the over-time fine). That’s less than Wilson Parking charges for a single *hour* in their downtown parking buildings.

    Zing!