Clamped over permit
FOR MORE than 20 years Brian McLean thought a mobility permit and a wheelchair was enough to allow him to park in a disabled spot.
But a recent trip to Manurewa's Southmall proved him wrong when he returned after 20 minutes of shopping to find his car clamped.
The New Zealand Wheel Clamping Company's contractor said he couldn't read the bright orange mobility parking permit card displayed on the dashboard.
"How did he miss that?" Mr McLean says.
Mr McLean says he opened the car door to give the contractor a better look, only to discover to his surprise that his mobility permit had expired.
Despite Mr McLean's protests the contractor refused to remove the clamp unless he got $150 within the next hour – or the car would be towed.
"I said I had no way of paying him," says Mr McLean, who's retired. "I would have been left high and dry with no way home."
He couldn't even ring his wife Trish to pick him up because she's also disabled.
The couple have been in wheelchairs for more than 20 years and rely on their customised car to get around.
Mr McLean was stuck at Southmall for nearly an hour, "too scared to leave my car", while the contractor went off to clamp elsewhere.
Eventually after returning and ringing his boss, the contractor agreed to unclamp Mr McLean's car.
But only if he signed a form agreeing to pay within seven days or face penalties and possible legal action.
Mr McLean has so far refused to pay and the clamping company hasn't responded to his calls and letters asking for the $150 to be waived.
"I know I'm in the wrong with the damn permit being expired," he says.
"But my gripe is them not being reasonable. They were just so unreasonable it made my blood boil."
Mr McLean says the warden shouldn't have clamped his car just because he couldn't see the card.
"If he didn't know, he shouldn't have clamped it.
"I'm disabled, I have a right to be there."
He also doesn't understand how a private company can fine him and is upset the warden never showed identification.
Another Manurewa resident who doesn't want to be named says she had a "nightmare" dealing with the same clamping company at Southmall.
The woman says her car was clamped after a fire alarm at the government offices she was visiting delayed her return.
She reluctantly paid the immediate fine then spent four months trying without success to get a refund from the clamping company.
The woman says she's since been told that if she'd immediately called the local police, the car would have been unclamped without payment because it's her property.
The clamping company's approach "shows a callous and cynical disregard of people for profit's sake, it demonstrates no compassion and exploits a loophole in an archaic common law", she says. She wants clamping companies to be "forced to cease their intimidation which further disadvantages vulnerable south Auckland families."
New Zealand Wheel Clamping Company general manager Ali Dzaferic wouldn't discuss Mr McLean's case and suggested it wasn't "press-worthy".
"It's not about mobility, it's about if you've got a card or not."
He says there is always an "emotional attachment" when it comes to the disabled but they are required to display a valid card in a mobility park.
They've had cases where the disabled card was obscured and upon finding it was valid the warden unclamped the car.
Mr Dzaferic says anyone feeling "aggrieved" should write to the company.