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Parking meters and the Beehive
Fine changes have been, err, parked (Image: Archi Banal)

PoliticsJuly 5, 2023

Parking fines review stalled due to cost of living crisis

Parking meters and the Beehive
Fine changes have been, err, parked (Image: Archi Banal)

Despite the transport ministry’s recommendation, the government has confirmed a plan to make parking fines more of a deterrent has been put on blocks. Stewart Sowman-Lund reports.

The government has stopped work on a planned overhaul of parking offences due to the ongoing cost of living crisis, a move that has upset Auckland’s mayor. The news follows reports this week that a potential congestion charge has also been put on hold.

Documents obtained by The Spinoff showed Ministry of Transport officials spent two years drafting up a suggested overhaul of parking regulations and penalties. They concluded the system was no longer working as it should and parking fines weren’t high enough to be a proper deterrent for drivers – it’s been 24 years since penalties were last updated, and inflation has soared over that period.

Auckland mayor Wayne Brown has been vocal about his desire to see parking fines increased and said it was ridiculous that the government was in charge of setting penalties. He wanted a law change that would give councils more power. “Parking fines are too low, but the real shocker is that they’re actually set by Wellington,” he told The Spinoff. Last month, Brown said on RNZ that drivers should be slapped with $100 fees for carpark overstaying, as opposed to the current $12, and it didn’t make sense that smaller areas like Gore had the same fines as cities like Auckland. 

While the government had been working to update those rules, it can now be revealed it’s not going to happen any time soon.

In April this year, transport ministry officials contacted the associate transport minister Kiri Allan with the latest set of proposals. In a briefing obtained by The Spinoff under the Official Information Act, it was recommended that Allan should bring a suggested package of proposed changes to cabinet on May 17. “Consultation will provide us with the opportunity to better understand the impacts of the current regulatory status, as well as the potential impacts that the proposed changes could have on particular groups,” officials told the minister.

However, Allan chose not to do this, opting to instead open consultation only on technical updates to road rules. That meant the package of proposed changes prepared by the Ministry of Transport hasn’t yet made it any further than the minister’s desk. 

(Image: Supplied)

A spokesperson for the government confirmed to The Spinoff that work on the review had now been halted. “The Ministry of Transport has started a review of parking offences and penalties. This review is currently on hold as the government’s focus is on addressing the cost of living and responding to recent severe weather events,” they said.

“Increasing infringement fees is not something the government is considering right now. This is not the time to impose additional costs on people when they are dealing with cost of living pressures.”

Officials had warned the government that choosing not to do anything about parking penalties could have consequences. “De-prioritisation or termination of this work could exacerbate existing pressure on the integrity of the parking system,” they wrote. “For example, with fewer and fewer people opting to pay for their parking, the ability of the system to fairly and efficiently allocate scarce parking resources will continue to be undermined.”

This could in turn lead to worsening outcomes for “safety, equitable access, economic prosperity, environmental sustainability, and overall efficiency of the transport system”. 

On the flipside, officials said there were risks associated with increasing penalties. These included a potential uptick in verbal abuse against parking wardens and more people launching time-consuming appeals against their fines.

A street lined with parking machines.
(Image: Tina Tiller)

In May, after Allan had already paused the plan, then-transport minister Michael Wood told The Spinoff the government was still aiming to update penalties and gave no indication work had been put on hold. “[The Ministry of Transport] are expecting to progress some work regarding the various parking offences and penalties later in 2023 or earlier in 2024.” In the meantime, Wood said ministry officials were working on a more minor review of parking regulation – but “the maximum fines for parking offences are not being included in this tranche of updates”.

Brown told The Spinoff there needed to be “less Wellington, more Auckland” when it came to his council’s ability to set parking fines. “It’s unfortunate this issue is one that seems to have been parked.”

While details of just how much the proposed new penalties would be were included in documents provided to the minister, they were fully redacted in copies released to The Spinoff.

Plans to introduce congestion charging in main centres have also stalled, with RNZ reporting on Tuesday that the government wanted to get cross-party support before introducing any legislation. National won’t commit to any plan while Auckland’s regional fuel tax remains in place. “The National Party has always been very clear that congestion charging can’t be an additional charge on motorists, it needs to be part of wider transport funding reform. So, while we’re fully committed to transport funding, Labour’s bill didn’t do that,” the party’s transport spokesperson Simeon Brown said.

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