Council has a rethink on fines

HELEN HARVEY
Last updated 05:00 13/12/2013

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Mary Dobson, you are not alone.

The New Plymouth woman fined $40 for a simple mistake at the parking pay station is one of thousands who have been pinged by the new system.

Since July 1, there have been nearly 5000 $40 tickets issued in New Plymouth for drivers failing to activate parking meters correctly.

Of those, 504 tickets had been cancelled by the New Plymouth District Council.

It is not known how many of the 4735 tickets were given to people who had accidently paid for the wrong parking bay as opposed to those who had just not bothered to pay at all.

Yesterday's Taranaki Daily News told the story of Mrs Dobson who had mucked up the numbers of her parking bay when she paid for her park. The New Plymouth District Council refused to cancel her ticket.

But the council has now done an about-turn and waived Mrs Dobson's fine. And they also decided to let another woman off her ticket for the same offence after she told them she was defending the charge and to set up the court date.

Carol Sutton parked in bay number 4644, but she keyed in 4645.

"It's my fault. But it was a genuine mistake. A keying error."

She received a ticket for failing to activate the meter, she said.

"I did activate a parking meter, just the wrong one."

When her plea to have the fine waived was refused, she emailed the council saying she would take it to court.

"It's not the money, it's the principle of the matter. They charge the same as if you got out of your car, looked the parking meter, thought ‘nah stuff it' and walked off. It's not like I didn't pay."

It would be more reasonable if people who had paid for the wrong park were fined $12, which was the fine for staying in a park over the time limit, Mrs Sutton said.

Mrs Dobson said she was pleased the council had decided to cancel her ticket.

"I'm very grateful that they have reviewed it and have reviewed what they are planning to do with the parking tickets and that they're going to be a bit more tolerant."

The support she had received from the community was overwhelming, she said.

Council customer and regulatory manager Mary-Anne Priest said council officers had spent the morning discussing the issue.

Everyone who wrote in needed to be considered individually, she said.

"Some people dispute tickets just because they got one."

But in the cases of Mrs Dobson and Mrs Sutton there was clear evidence that their intent was to pay for parking.

A system was being trialled in London where a driver had a pre-paid card in his car, which activated when the car was driven over a sensor, she said.

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The council was hoping to have the pre-paid card system in New Plymouth in 18 months.

A couple of weeks ago Palmerston North City Council reduced the $40 fine for paying for the wrong parking bay to $12, which was the same fine people got for staying in the park over the time limit.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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