Soft approach just the ticket for drivers

Nearly everyone who challenges their parking tickets in Palmerston North is let off.

City motorists started getting some relief from parking fines even before this week's abolition of the $40 fine for paying for the wrong parking bay.

While the number of tickets being issued varies from month to month, the proportion of people being let off if they apply for a waiver has increased. Figures released under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act show 28,883 tickets were issued in the six months to the end of October.

About one in eight people challenged the infringements, and 97 per cent of them were granted waivers.

The $40 fine for failing to activate the meter correctly proved harder to challenge. Of 8980 tickets issued for the offence, 1313 were challenged, and 994 were granted - a lower success rate of 75 per cent.

City council customer services general manager Peter Eathorne said the high percentage of fines waived reflected a softened approach by council staff.

"We are trying to take on board the circumstances individual drivers are faced with, and be more lenient generally about honest mistakes and on other grounds for consideration."

The other reason for the higher number of applications for waiver and the proportion of those tickets that were withdrawn was a change in practice dealing with expired warrants of fitness and registration.

People used to be given a warning and a month's grace to put things right. From August, wardens started issuing tickets the day after those stickers expired, but they are waived if people fix the problem within 14 days.

Parking regime critic and former deputy mayor John Hornblow said he was delighted to see a more tolerant approach by the council.

"That's being humanitarian, and contributing to the kind of city we want to have."

But he said the fact 1400 people a month were being ticketed for making a mistake at the meter showed there were still problems to address.

"Education has not been working. If the system was easy to understand, that number should have gone down hugely."

He said the time and effort taken by motorists who challenged tickets, and by staff who ended up waiving the majority of them, was a hassle and a waste of energy.

He challenged the council to do more, to make parking for Christmas shopping more friendly.

The reinstatement of a 10-minute grace period when paid time ran out would be an appropriate goodwill gesture, he said.

Mr Eathorne said there would be no parking pixies to help people at the meters, or reinstatement of the extra time. But he said staff recognised Christmas was a busy and sometimes stressful time.

"We need to take a more lenient approach, and on Christmas Eve we won't be doing so much infringement work, unless there is a public safety issue."

Manawatu Standard