Frivolous spending, overzealous fines

23:36, Jul 23 2011
SEAN PLUNKET: Previously has worked in television, including stints on Fair Go, a number of years as a TV3 political correspondent in the press gallery and with current affairs show Holmes.
SEAN PLUNKET: Previously has worked in television, including stints on Fair Go, a number of years as a TV3 political correspondent in the press gallery and with current affairs show Holmes.

I HAVE no problems with paying my rates. On the whole I think this city is well run and my rates are well spent maintaining city infrastructure and funding projects that benefit this community.

Less impressive is the $4000 of our money mayor Celia Wade-Brown took from the city's coffers to fly to Auckland, stay overnight and have a media training session with Helen Clark's media svengalis Dr Brian Edwards and his wife Judy Callingham.

Not that I was surprised to read in this paper about the hitherto secret trip, which I note wasn't mentioned in any of the ratepayer-funded advertorials that grace the pages of the DomPost each week.

After my last radio interview with Ms Wade-Brown on NewstalkZB, I remarked to my producer that I thought she had been media-trained, probably by Edwards.

It wasn't that she answered any of my questions any more fulsomely, or sounded any more or less confident, or was any more or less truthful than previously. She just seemed more, well, I hate to say it Brian, fake.

That is hardly surprising given that Edwards and Callingham have a rather last-century view of the media interview as a battle of egos rather than a forum for the extraction and dissemination of information important to the public. Their approach seems to be that it doesn't matter if you answer the questions as long as you win the interview.


If you are happy for your rates to pay for our mayor to take that approach then the four grand has been well spent. I am not, but am even more disturbed that our mayor burned precious fossil fuel flying to another city for the training when any number of media trainers here could have done the job as well if not better.

Still, the non-rates dollar from parking fines might have paid for the trip if this correspondence between a friend and CitiOperations manager Stavros Michael is anything to go by:

"Dear Stavros, I would be grateful for your advice. I parked outside Parliament today to go to a good friend's funeral at Old St Paul's. The funeral was packed and overran as there was 12 speeches. On returning to the car I see two parking tickets. These are still joined together, are for apparently the same offence as per the writing on the ticket. Printed 2mins apart. How can this be? Kind regards

"Ticket One: time 13.49; Offence: Displaying a pay and display receipt ticket indicating time expired for more than 1 hour but less than 2 hrs

"Ticket Two: time 13.51; Parking in excess of the maximum meter time indicated on the meter for more than 1 hour but not more than 2 hours."

A reasonable and respectful letter I thought. It wasn't long before my friend got a reply from the champion of Wellington's parking wardens, Mr Michael.

"Thanks for your inquiry. The parking regulations of the city specify parking time limits (ie P30 or P60 or P120) in order to engineer an appropriate turnover of vehicles per parking space which in turn aids the various economic and accessibility objectives of our Parking Policy. In addition the parking regulations specify the value of the car parking space through a set of fees per hour etc. Revenue from this area offsets the level of funding required to maintain a transport network and lessens the burden on ratepayers.

"So in effect your tickets were for:

"Breaching the time limits (ie denied other potential users the space) and,

"Breaching your obligation to pay for the space occupation.

"The level of fines is defined through national legislation and our parking enforcement policy works within those penalty grades.

"I am sure that the overstay on the car park was caused by the funeral process. However, a parking warden would have no way of knowing that and they must apply the remedies required by the regulations consistently and within the rules of the policy. I trust that this clarifies the matter for you."

I don't think my friend was overly impressed by this, which is why he sent the correspondence to me. Perhaps the council needs a new bylaw to specify how long a funeral should be or, heaven forbid, make consideration for mourners who travel by car by designating more parking near to churches and other venues where such events are held.

I wonder how Brian Edwards would spin that one.

The Dominion Post