One minute was all it took for a Palmerston North SuperGold card holder to wipe out the benefits she has had from the city council's parking charge exemption scheme.
And adding insult to the injury of a $40 ticket, parking services staff claimed she did not have the relevant parking permit when she complained.
Maureen Jenkins found out the hard way that overstaying under the scheme carries a harsher penalty than people would face if they paid the meter, then stayed over time.
She is one of some 800 SuperGold card holders who, as Palmerston North ratepayers, paid $10 a year for the permit that allows them free parking from 9am until 11am on weekdays.
When Mrs Jenkins was late back to her car, she was hit with a $40 ticket for failing to correctly activate the meter - something she did not have to do because she did not have to pay up until 11am.
Anyone who had paid at the meter, then gone over time, would have received a lesser $12 ticket. "I would have accepted $12," she said.
She had parked on Broadway on Thursday, did some messages, had to retrace her steps to pick up some keys, and was running six minutes late getting back to her car.
Free parking ran out at 11am, she was granted five minutes' grace, but the extra one minute was enough to attract a ticket.
She said $40 was much more than she had ever saved on free parking, and was a harsh penalty for people on low incomes.
"There must be hundreds of other users who do not understand if you go over time, it's $40. There was nothing telling us it would be so much.
"It's bureaucracy gone mad."
She went in to the council to fill out a form contesting the infringement.
When the Manawatu Standard followed up her complaint, acting head of parking services Michelle Wolfsbauer said Mrs Jenkins did not have a parking permit.
Mrs Jenkins, who had her permit issued at Age Concern, was furious about the accusation.
"Just because we are old, does not mean we are stupid."
She has since been back with her permit, and demanded an apology, which was given and accepted.
Ms Wolfsbauer was standing by the fact that after 11am, all motorists were required to pay the meter.
However, the issue of the harsher penalty for non-paying rather than paying motorists would be considered.
Mrs Jenkins said her main concern was to alert other permit holders to the penalty they faced if they ran over time as she did. "It means, now, that I will not park in town. I'll go to Terrace End or Feilding."
More than 768 over-65s have paid $10 to join the scheme through the council or Age Concern this year, and on more than 1220 occasions parking wardens have withheld tickets where exemption cards have been displayed.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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