Former deputy mayor joins parking petition

MATHEW GROCOTT AND JANINE RANKIN
Last updated 12:00 13/11/2012
John Hornblow
WARWICK SMITH/Fairfax NZ
FED UP: Former Palmerston North deputy mayor John Hornblow signs the petition calling for a review of Palmerston North's paid parking system.

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He voted for it as deputy mayor but now John Hornblow has added his voice to the chorus of discontent over Palmerston North's paid parking system.

Mr Hornblow said the council's management of the Frog Parking system was creating anxiety and fear among shoppers to such an extent it was driving them out of the city's centre.

The former city councillor voted to introduce the system in 2010. Yesterday he signed a petition asking for the system to be reviewed and is calling for people unhappy with the parking meters to do the same.

"I thought that the system would be just and easy.

"I'm questioning all of that now in the light of both mounting personal experience and the express number of people in the city who have contacted me.

"My call is for councillors to seriously reconsider the system, to show leadership and to address the issue."

Mayor Jono Naylor said while there were issues with enforcement, he stood by the decision to install sensors, and that they were here to stay.

The Frog Parking system has been in place since mid-2011. Since then the system, which uses sensors in the road to detect if a vehicle is present, has been criticised as too difficult for some people to use.

Numerous shoppers have contacted the Manawatu Standard with stories of receiving parking fines after making innocent mistakes when using the meters, and of being unable to have fines overturned by the council after providing evidence to support their stories.

Mr Hornblow said the meters were too complicated, the fines were disproportionately large and the council was too strict in enforcing them.

People had run into issues because, for example, they could not top up a meter, he said, or because they had paid but had entered the wrong number.

"These are good people who make an innocent mistake, they're not trying to rip the system off.

"While I appreciate the difficult job council staff have in dealing with many, many letters asking to be let off, these people, good people . . . have to prove to a bureaucracy that they made a genuine mistake," Mr Hornblow said.

"I know of people who do not come into town because of their fear and anxiety of getting it wrong and having to pay these enormous fines."

Mr Naylor said any suggestions to remove the parking sensors would be a backward step.

"There is no doubt sensors will be the technology of the future.

"I acknowledge there are issues about how we choose to enforce the system - and the area where people have most difficulty is when they have punched in the wrong bay number. We certainly need to look at how to reconcile that."

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But he did not accept complaints that were about people getting infringements for things they were used to getting away with, such as overstaying on time limits, even if they did pay for the extra time.

He was trying to set up a workshop for councillors to thrash out the issues next week.

Mr Hornblow encouraged people to have their voices heard. "I want people to sign the petition and when we present the petition to council my call is for anyone who is genuinely feeling aggrieved over a parking ticket while this new system has been in to vote with their feet.

"I would not be surprised if the council chamber was packed."

The petition is available to be signed in several city businesses include GQ Clothing and Spectra Hair. GQ owner Ralph Bare said at least 200 people had signed the copies in his store since the petition was launched last week.

- Manawatu Standard

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