Parking wardens new 'ambassadors'

Parking wardens will be getting a friendly makeover as the council regains control of its parking services.

Wellington City Council is bringing its parking services back in house from July next year, after a behind-closed-doors debate by the transport and urban development committee yesterday.

But while the council says the move will improve service and allow better use of technology, it won't mean savings for drivers.

"None of this will make any difference to the parking price," committee chairman Andy Foster said yesterday.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said there was no need to drop prices, because the current charges, which at their highest are $4 an hour in the CBD, allowed a good level of turnover, which was good for business.

However, parking wardens would be operating in a different way, Mr Foster said. They would be given new uniforms and encouraged to act like "ambassadors" for Wellington, offering help and directions for visitors, and keeping an eye on facilities such as rubbish bins.

The change would also make it easier to introduce better technology that would improve service by removing delays caused by having to alter contracts when new systems were introduced, he said.

That included introducing text parking, by which people would get alerts that their metered time was about to expire and would be able to top it up from smartphones.

There would also be easier ways for people to buy residents' and coupon parking online, and deal directly with council staff over complaints.

"We will also save money and have more direct control - which will lead to a more nimble service - one that can make changes and respond to the needs of the city and the public more effectively," Mr Foster said. Ms Wade-Brown said the shift in-house "made sense from a financial, a reputation and a technology point of view".

Parking wardens, who were previously considered contractors, will now be directly employed by the council and therefore eligible for the living wage, to which councillors agreed last week.

Service and Food Workers Union national secretary John Ryall said raising the pay of wardens - at present about $14.10 an hour - to the $18.40 living wage was great news, provided existing wardens were able to shift to working for the council.

"Our parking warden members are working up to 70 hours a week and are on rates as low as $14.10 an hour, no matter how much experience they have," he said.

The council said present contractors Tenix and Parkwise had been informed of the decision, and it would provide opportunities for their staff to apply for jobs.

The Dominion Post