Pregnant paraplegic woman clamped at mall

01:43, Jan 31 2009
UPSET: Meika Reid was so upset to have her car illegally clamped at Eastgate Mall, just days before the birth of baby Jaimie, that she began having false contractions.

A heavily pregnant paraplegic has had her car clamped at Christchurch's Eastgate shopping centre, despite the vehicle displaying a valid mobility-parking permit.

Meika Reid, 35, said she then had to endure a 2 1/2 hour stand-off with a "rude and aggressive" warden, and started having false contractions during the incident this month.

The warden's bosses told him to remove the clamp and in doing so, Reid said he tore the bumper and a piece fell off her car causing more than $500 damage.

"It was just crazy and it turned into quite a stressful situation that did not need to be," said Reid, who gave birth five days later.

The Avondale woman had a valid mobility-parking permit, although the expiry date was partially obscured by her windscreen seal.

The incident was one of three involving mobility-parking disputes at Eastgate.

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The Government is now investigating regulating wheel-clamping companies.

The Ministry of Transport is considering the move after what it calls "apparent exploitative activity" by some wheel-clamp operators nationwide.

Social agencies are also considering legal action after "overzealous" parking wardens ticketed an elderly Canterbury woman with a valid mobility-parking permit at Northlands.

In another incident at Eastgate, Carolyn Thompson fell foul of New Zealand Wheel Clamping Company wardens.

Thompson, who had suffered two broken ankles, had her vehicle clamped despite displaying a valid permit.

In the third incident at Eastgate, tetraplegic teacher Rob Macdonald's vehicle was clamped and given a $150 ticket last Saturday because his permit had expired.

He said the warden watched him park and get into his wheelchair.

The Papanui High School teacher said he understood why the warden ticketed him but felt it showed a lack of compassion and flexibility for people with disabilities.

Transport Ministry legislation safety manager Leo Mortimer said the ministry was aware of "apparent exploitative activity" by some wheel-clamp operators.

It is investigating whether regulation is required as there is none in place covering the right to clamp or move vehicles parked on private land.

Motorists can go to the Disputes Tribunal to object to wheel-clamping penalties.

Most Christchurch malls contract the New Zealand Wheel Clamping Company to monitor their private parks.

The company's national operations manager, Ali Dzaferic, said yesterday it did not target disabled people.

"We monitor mobility parks on private property throughout New Zealand on a card-display basis," he said. "Yes, it is a difficult job we do but a rewarding one from positive feedback we receive every day."

He said contractors could use discretion but had clear guidelines and boundaries within which they had to operate.

The company would not comment on individual complaints.

Grey Power Christchurch president Colin Taylor said it was considering legal action against the company.

The group's involvement was prompted by a woman in her 80s whose car had been clamped at Northlands because her permit had slipped from the dashboard when she left the vehicle.

"It's the people who have every right to park there (in disabled parks) who are being targeted for things like their card (permit) slipping off the dashboard or being slightly obscured," Taylor said. "I think it's very wrong."

The Canterbury co-ordinator for a national lobby group, the Disabled Persons' Assembly, Karim Baradi, said it was collecting complaints about clamping companies.

The assembly planned to discuss the complaints with relevant companies but wanted the industry to be better regulated.

CCS Disability Action, which issues 97,000 mobility permits nationwide, supported calls for regulation.

National development manager Peter Wilson said it could minimise confusion and misunderstanding.

He had received some complaints from CCS members about the New Zealand Wheel Clamping Company but said there had not been many. Eastgate manager Graeme Roberts was unavailable for comment.

The Press