Time to stand up to the council on parking

Congratulations to Evelyn Williamson. She the woman who would not surrender and pay a $60 fine for double parking just because she'd been photographed by the city council's spy cam car waiting to turn into a driveway on Customhouse Quay. 

She took her case to court and won. Case dismissed. Good on her!  She would not be bullied or intimidated into paying a fine that she believed that she had been given unjustly. And she was right about that, as the court verdict shows, and she was right to stand up to authority which was trying to push her around. There should be more people like her. I applaud her.

But there is a wider problem here, as most motorists in Wellington know only too well. We have a parking regime in the city that is more about getting money than anything else. The spy cam car is just one aspect of it, but it is probably the most objectionable.

A colleague was recently given a ticket for parking his vehicle in a loading zone. In fact he was unloading goods into his own shop.  But the sneaky spy cam car was driving past at the time, took the photo,  and a letter with a demand for payment duly arrived.  No inquiry about what he was doing, whether the vehicle was legally allowed to be there, or anything approaching due process. Just a photo and a demand for money. This is standover tactics that the mafia would be proud of.

He wrote to the council, and got off the ticket, but why should he have to do that? He was going about his business lawfully, and suddenly he's got a hassle - improper, unjustified and close to intimidation and harassment.   Many others have had similar experiences of being preyed upon in this manner.

The worst aspect is that it reverses the usual burden of proof. If a person overstays on a meter, then they deservedly get ticketed.  But the spy cam car goes about looking for anything that might possibly be illegal, as Ms Williamson's case, and that of the shopkeeper illustrate. The hapless citizen then has to prove their innocence, not the other way around, and that's unfair.

There are many other complaints about various aspects of the parking system, including the latest scam of seeking to charge for parking after 6pm on Mondays through Thursdays.  It's argued by council officers that charging for parking in the evening will encourage more people to come into the city. They are in dreamland. 

The council should conduct a full review of its parking arrangements including a hard look at its contract with Parkwise, and it should also allow citizens to present their stories to councillors. When councillors hear the voices of the people they would have to take notice and then take action to stop the council exploiting its own citizens.