Debt collectors may chase parking fines

City parking enforcement managers are looking to use debt collectors to recover hundreds of thousands of dollars of tickets issued by wardens.

The private collection plan, being investigated and emulating a similar move by Auckland Transport, would involve Hamilton City Council handing overdue parking and traffic infringements to an external agency.

The change will help the council avoid court lodgement fees to chase unpaid tickets, and encourage drivers to pay promptly, say enforcement staff.

Drivers owed the council more than $4 million at the end of March for parking and traffic tickets.

More than $700,000 in fines have gone to court after reminder letters and two months' grace, with another $922,000 overdue.

City council transport manager Phil Consedine said although nothing would happen in this financial year staff were investigating a trial after July.

In Auckland, paying Baycorp is proving cheaper than paying a $31 court lodgment fee for the courts to collect, which is added to drivers' fines.

Credit records are not adversely affected by the collections, but lenders do have access to information about cases that reach the courts.

Mr Consedine said about 15 per cent to 20 per cent of tickets were not paid and went to court, where the council's lodgment and court costs are added to any fines.

About 7000 tickets issued each year by the council ended up going to court.

City parking team leader John Purcell said chasing overdue tickets could be difficult, with, for example people changing addresses, and external debt collection agents were far better equipped to handle this.

"They might not tell NZTA where they've moved to but when they go to buy a plasma TV on hire purchase, that retailer and external debt collection agents have that information, and can identify where they've moved to."

Latest infringement revenue data due before the council next month shows a continuing decline in income from parking and traffic infringements. At the end of March the income was almost $200,000 down on budget.

Parking infringements, largely not complying with bylaws or parking on footpaths and traffic infringements or not having a current warrant or registration, generate $3.2m a year.

Mr Purcell said it was difficult to identify the reasons for the trend, but enforcement of warrants and registrations was a key focus of his wardens.

Waikato Times