Early birds avoid the parking fines
Some Palmerston North motorists have found a way to get free all-day parking in the city.
And the city council's answer to the shortcoming exposed in the high-tech sensor-parking system is old-fashioned chalk.
The key to free parking is to arrive before 8am, before charges at the meter apply. The meters will not accept payment at that time, and wardens do not begin their rounds until 9am.
A city worker, who wanted to remain anonymous, said he had colleagues who had discovered the loophole in the enforcement system by accident several months ago.
One had parked outside the office for an early morning meeting and, when he remembered his car was on a metered park, went out to move it, expecting there would already be a ticket. There wasn't, and the man described it as "a miracle".
Motorists assumed they would at least get a ticket if they stayed over the two-hour parking restriction, but that deadline also passed without an infringement notice being issued.
Some persevered and found their vehicles were safe for the whole day.
The man who alerted the Manawatu Standard to the problem said some people had saved up to $1000 in parking charges over several months.
The Standard witnessed the practice this week, observing the car of someone on an early shift which remained parked all day on Church St without attracting a ticket.
A warden patrolled the area several times, studied the vehicle closely, and issued tickets to other overstayers, but the early morning parker went scot free.
The Standard's source said some of the people working the system were reluctant to come forward and would have preferred keeping the discovery a secret.
Their concern was if everyone knew about the trick, more people would use it and the council would have to act to close off the perk.
But he said he was annoyed with the council for making a fundamental mistake with its system.
"I'm quite disappointed by the officious manner of the council in enforcing parking rules.
"But I think it's funny that they have implemented a system that allows people to do the very thing they wanted to stop.
"They wanted to stop retailers parking outside their shops all day."
City council roading manager Graeme Tong said he did not know the extent of the practice but
parking wardens would be changing their work practices. They would revert to chalking the tyres of vehicles suspected of parking too early for the Frog sensor system.
Chalk rubs off quickly if cars are moved but if the mark remains for more than two hours it provides evidence of overstaying.
"Metered parking bays in the central business district are for everyone, and council takes a dim view of those who try to manipulate the system for their own ends over those of the wider community."
Tong said Frog Parking had been advised of the issue and had indicated a solution could be considered with manual checking being done in the meantime.