NZTA says letters not legitimate

Murray Chong
Murray Chong

New Plymouth's best known council wannabe has stirred controversy by slapping NZ Transport Agency warning letters on cars parked near his business.

Murray Chong operates a mortgage brokering business on the corner of Northgate and Watson St and has long taken issue with signwritten cars and those up for sale being parked around there.

For the last 18 months he has been handing out official NZ Transport Agency letters in the name of state highway manager David McGonigal. These inform people of a roadside vendors bylaw that could see them fined up to $500 if they continue to park in the area.

The problem is, the agency says, it has never given Mr Chong permission to hand out such letters, despite the mortgage broker saying he got a verbal go-ahead some 18 months ago.

A NZ Transport Agency spokesman said yesterday its understanding was that Mr Chong had talked to its New Plymouth consultant about the issue "but at no point has he been granted permission for notices to be distributed on Mr McGonigal's behalf".

The spokesman said the letters were not legitimate and the agency was currently pursuing the issue through legal channels.

For his part Mr Chong said he had stopped handing out the letters but was adamant he had done nothing wrong and was simply making people aware of a bylaw they could be prosecuted under.

"Who is in the right here? Someone breaking the bylaw or someone trying to inform people there is a bylaw in place?

"Wouldn't they rather know the bylaw is in place than get a fine? I am actually doing them a favour," he said.

While the NZ Transport Agency bylaw covers roadside vendors, the New Plymouth District Council has its own bylaw covering vehicles parked on the road for the purpose of advertising.

One of those who has fallen foul of that rule is Reuben Doyle, the city's only other self-confessed council aspirant.

The real estate agent regularly parks his signwritten ambulance near Mr Chong's business and the pair have previously come into conflict over the issue.

It was Mr Doyle who posted the agency letter on his Facebook page, writing that it had been handed out by the "Sheriff of Northgate" and the "perpetrator is misrepresenting the NZTA".

Council consents manager Ralph Broad said Mr Doyle's parking habits were currently under investigation and a letter sent to him on 21 September said he could be "operating outside the rules".

Taranaki Daily News