Queenstown council admits parking fine probe

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Queenstown’s council is investigating claims its parking fines regime has raked in millions of dollars from invalid tickets. 

Former long-serving Wakatipu parking administrator Mike Darling has alerted council that he feels many tickets issued in Queenstown aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. 

He believes up to 65 per cent of parking tickets dished out – going back as far as 1997 – are potentially illegal and thinks motorists should be refunded. 

QLDC appears to be taking Darling’s allegations seriously – transport manager Denis Mander confirms his complaints about incorrect signage and markings around town are being investigated. 

“I think the council was taken aback by what I had to say. I believe if the council doesn’t introduce a public inquiry they’re hanging themselves out to dry,” Darling says. 

Council pulls in almost a million dollars a year in parking fines. 

Both Mander and Queenstown mayor Vanessa van Uden met with Darling earlier this month. Mander also spent time on a street tour with Darling who pointed out what he sees as the problem spots. 

Mander: “We are looking at whether the signage and the actual markings at some areas are the correct ones, so we are getting advice. 

“There’s some markings that I know need to be sorted out,” Mander admits, adding contractors will be making the changes in the coming weeks. 

Asked if the process he’s going through could lead to refunds, Mander replies: “I don’t think so – again, something to check.” 

In 2008, Christchurch City Council voted to refund about 2000 parking tickets – worth more than $78,000 – because correct signage wasn’t in place in an area it was policing. 

The main problems in downtown Queenstown, according to Darling, are: 

Incorrect loading zone signs and markings. Darling says till recently all loading zone signs were illegal, but two in Camp Street still haven’t been changed 

Administrative errors in the issue and prosecution of pay and display fines 

Motorists being stung with $40 fines for illegal street parking when it should only be $12, as according to the Land Transport Act 

“My main concern is the parking should be legally enforced,” Darling says. 

“The ratepayers are entitled to get the revenue they should get if it’s legally enforced – or it should be refunded.” 

Darling knows his stuff – he ran parking for council and then its former enforcement contractor CivicCorp for seven years. 

He claims he was restructured out of his job in 2002 for blowing the whistle on its then parking regime, but later won a confidential settlement through the Employment Tribunal. 

“I took a personal grievance which I won but it cost me my job, my health, my life, my house,” Darling, 62, says.