Wellington City Council caught out by judge's white lines appeal
Thousands of parking tickets issued in central Wellington can now be challenged – because the city council tried too hard to make the streets look attractive.
A judge who was given a ticket for a parking infringement in Blair St, off Courtenay Pl, appealed against it on the grounds that car parks in the street were not properly marked.
After taking legal advice two weeks ago, Wellington City Council waived the unnamed judge's ticket, and discovered six other streets had similar problems, council spokesman Richard MacLean said.
About 50 parks in sections of Allen St, Woodward St, Grey St, Customhouse Quay, Courtenay Pl, and Cuba St are marked by different coloured paving stones, rather than white lines, in an effort to make the streets more visually appealing.
"We have been trying to avoid painting white strips all over the streets," MacLean said.
No tickets had been issued in the affected sections since the legal advice was received, and the council had stopped wardens patrolling there until the problem had been fixed.
The council would not identify the judge, what the ticket was for, or how much it was for. Depending on the offence, infringement fees range from $12 to $60. Judges' salaries range from about $300,000 in the district court to about $450,000 in the Supreme Court.
The judge's appeal was based on a section of the Land Transport Act, which says all car parks must be marked with painted lines.
While some of the affected Wellington streets had some markings, not all car parks were marked, MacLean said. "Any tickets that have been issued on these car parks are theoretically invalid."
But the burden of proof in appealing against the tickets would lie with motorists, he said. In some streets, where there were some markings, this would prove difficult, as it would be hard for motorists to show they were in wrongly marked parks.
However, the bottom of Cuba St, between Manners and Wakefield streets, has no painted markings.
There were potentially thousands of tickets that could be challenged and, if appeals were successful, fines paid would have to be refunded, MacLean said. He could not say how much this might cost the council.
Andy Foster, who chairs the council's transport and urban development committee, said it was "disappointing" the judge had got off on a legal technicality when he would have known he was flouting the rules.
"Sometimes the law and common sense don't say the same thing."
The council would fix the problem as soon as possible, Foster said. "Unfortunately, we are going to have to go and paint white lines all over the place ... it doesn't really benefit the city in any way."
Motorist Nowras Alinizi, parking at the bottom of Cuba St on Wednesday, said she parked in the area three times a week and was in no doubt about where she was allowed to park, even though there were no white lines.
Geraldine Murphy, president of the Inner City Association, said ultimately the council was obliged to follow the law, or it would leave itself open to challenges from ticketed motorists.
"From an aesthetic point of view, if you could find an alternative to white lines all over the place, that would be good. But at then end of the day, you've got to make sure that people are absolutely clear about what is a car park."