Default parking fine to be cut
Palmerston North's $40 parking fine for failing to activate the meter correctly, which catches both non-payers and people who make a mistake, will be pruned to $12 from December 1.
The city council voted 10-5 last night in favour of the cut, which is expected to slice $570,000 from the council's annual income.
Deputy Mayor Jim Jefferies proposed the change.
He said the loss to the council was significant.
But he believed council managers could find savings elsewhere to avoid adding an extra 0.8 per cent to next year's rates to make up the difference.
Jefferies said the fine was a major frustration for the community and for visitors to town, and there was a perception the council was procrastinating about it.
"There is a significant financial effect but that will be the same if we delay a decision until next year."
About 4500 people a month get parking tickets, up to half of them for $40, out of 75,000 meter transactions.
In a major turnaround after refusing to use his entitlement to a councillor parking exemption, retiring councillor Pat Kelly opposed the change. He said the change was piecemeal, half-cocked and politically motivated.
"The public will have to pick up the cost. I'm not prepared to somehow say we are going to make it easy and people who are parking will get some sort of subsidy from the ratepayer."
Susan Baty, who was on a parking working party earlier this year, said the cost of making the change had first become apparent just after the rates for the year were set. It was not possible to contemplate the financial loss then but from December she believed it could be managed.
Mayor Jono Naylor and both councillor contestants for the mayoralty, Lew Findlay and Duncan McCann, supported the cut.
Naylor said the time was right.
The change did not mean people who failed to pay would be "let off".
They would just pay a smaller penalty. There was no point waiting for further reports about parking management, he said.
"What we are talking about is the equity of a $40 fine, that's either fair or it's not, and I don't think anyone could write anything in a report that would change my mind about fairness."
Findlay said the parking fiasco was one of the biggest messes he had seen in his 12 years on the council.
But although he agreed with the recommendations, he said the council had to find another way to make up for the financial loss other than "increasing the rates to cover our mistakes".
McCann, who challenged earlier advice that the council did not have the power to reduce the value of the fine, said the council had failed to predict the impact the improved enforcement enabled by Frogparking would have on the city. It had to make improvements.
He did not want to be part of creating an impression of Palmerston North, that if you messed up at the meter, you got a $40 fine.
Ross Linklater said the financial outlook for the council might not be as bad as predicted.
The $40 fine had created a bad image for the central city.
Getting rid of it would help improve that image, bring more people into the central city, and generate increased parking meter revenue that would help compensate.
Annette Nixon opposed making the cut out of context with a wider review of parking issues, and Tangi Utikere said he opposed treating people who did not even try to pay the same as those who paid but made a mistake.
The council wants parking profits to be spent on cutting debt from July next year and has asked for a report on how to cope with the lower revenue for the rest of the year.
Chief executive Paddy Clifford has also been asked to negotiate a revised revenue sharing deal with Frogparking in light of the cut.
How they voted:
For: Jim Jefferies, Jono Naylor, Jan Barnett, Ross Linklater, Susan Baty, Adrian Broad, Lew Findlay, Vaughan Dennison, Duncan McCann, Billy Meehan.
Against: Pat Kelly, Annette Nixon, Bruce Wilson, Chris Teo-Sherrell, Tangi Utikere.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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