English limo drivers to escape tickets

Last updated 05:00 04/01/2010
Bill English's parking problems
CUTTING IT FINE: Fabian Todd, in wheelchair, points out that the DPS Commodore is parked across a mobility parking zone.

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It appears that, if you are the acting prime minister in desperate need of a haircut, you can park just about anywhere.

Wellington City Council will not issue parking tickets to drivers of Bill English's convoy for parking on yellow lines and across a mobility area while he was getting a trim.

The council initially said it would issue tickets to Mr English's security detail but, after discussions with its lawyers and the diplomatic protection squad, it concluded that Mr English's drivers were within the law.

The council has denied it was pressured into changing its mind.

Council chief executive Garry Poole said police could park anywhere, as long as it was in the course of their duties. And a haircut for the acting PM is a valid excuse.

"While we do have the legal right to issue infringement notices to any vehicle parked unlawfully, police vehicles are exempt from parking restrictions if they are used by officers in the course of their duties.

"We have examined the circumstances of this particular case and I am satisfied that the exemption applies."

Mr English had his haircut at the upmarket Haight Ashbury salon in Johnston St, in the city centre, on November 26. His BMW Crown limo was parked on yellow lines and a Holden Commodore used by members of the DPS was parked partially across a mobility zone.

Mr English, the finance minister, was not at Parliament because he had a bad back. He was standing in as prime minister because John Key was in Trinidad for the Commonwealth heads of government meeting. As acting prime minister, he was required to have DPS officers nearby at all times.

The council had said it would ticket the drivers of the convoy, after the two cars were spotted by its mobility parks co-ordinator, Fabian Todd. The drivers faced a $150 fine for parking in a mobility zone, and a $60 fine for parking on yellow lines.

The cars were parked for about 45 minutes, until a freshly trimmed Mr English emerged from the salon.

"In this case, I am satisfied that the diplomatic protection squad were using their judgment and that no road user was inconvenienced," Mr Poole said. "They are aware of the need to stay clear of mobility parks unless strictly necessary for operational reasons."

Council spokesman Richard MacLean said the council was not pressured into dropping the fines. "Zero pressure. No pressure whatsoever," he said. "They have reasonably convinced us that it was necessary for the cars to be there."

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A spokesman for Mr English had no comment to make on the council's U-turn.

- The Dominion Post

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