Council wants link to mobility parking scheme

JANINE RANKIN
Last updated 12:00 21/12/2012

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Changes to New Zealand's mobility parking scheme are being phased in to make it easier for parking wardens to spot cheats taking advantage of parks set aside for people with disabilities.

However, the Palmerston North City Council only learnt about the CCS Disability Action plan in the past week, and does not know what changes it will need to make, nor how much it will cost, to link in to the system.

New permits issued by CCS include a barcode that from February will enable wardens to scan for information to check that the permits are valid.

They will be able to find out whether permits have been cancelled, lost or stolen, or that the permit holder has died and someone else is using it.

Council transportation planner Sandi Morris said any improvements cutting down abuse of mobility parks were welcome.

She believed the hand-held devices carried by the city's wardens would be capable of reading the new barcodes, but the system was likely to require programming changes and maintenance of a database of invalid permit information to make it work.

The necessary changes and costs were being investigated.

Ms Morris said the situation was complicated because the council also recognised mobility permits issued by Sommerville Disability Support Services, which was also phasing over to a new-look card, but without the barcode.

CCS Disability Action chief executive David Matthews said the improvements would give people with a genuine need a fairer chance of finding a mobility park when they needed one.

Although the group administers the scheme, it depends on council parking wardens to carry out enforcement in public parking spaces.

Mr Matthews said current holders should carry on using their permits. The new cards would be issued to new applicants, and to others when they were due for renewal.

In Palmerston North, mobility parking has been a hot topic for the city council, after it decided this year to start enforcing regulations that require mobility permit holders to pay for metered mobility parking.

Many card holders did not get the notice sent out warning of the change in practice, and took their protests to council meetings.

As a compromise, the council agreed to allow one hour's free parking for card holders beyond the time bought at the meter, on all metered parks with a time restriction of 60 minutes or more. The previous concession was 30 minutes.

Ms Morris said the extra time was being allowed already, and enforcement of the requirement to pay at the meter would recommence early next year.

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Mr Matthews said the one-hour-free arrangement was more generous than what some councils provided.

He said the scheme was never intended to provide free parking, but to ensure there were designated parks available at convenient locations in the community to make moving around a little easier for people with mobility issues.

"That's what levels out the playing field."

He said CCS wanted local authorities to agree among themselves about what the standard parking deal should be for mobility card holders.

- The Manawatu Standard

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