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In praise of Wellington’s spy car

by Kent Duston
Kiwis are terrible drivers. Over the holidays, the news has been full of the consequences of our bad driving habits as the dead and maimed piled up across the country. Largely these victims were the consequences of basic driving errors – speeding, badly-judged overtaking moves, hit-and-run crashes, drinking and driving, and failing to put on a seat belt. We kill ourselves on the road at more than twice the rate of the UK and rank as one of the worst performers for road deaths in the OECD.

And we’re no better around Wellington’s narrow streets, which is why the much-maligned “spy car” is such an essential tool. In the Wellington region, road deaths and injuries rose 10% last year, bucking the national trend.

Bad driving isn’t limited to the open road. A casual walk around the CBD reveals the drivers who think that they can double-park at will, leave their vans on the footpath because they’re “just ducking inside to pick up an item”, can’t be bothered walking from the car parks across the road so stop on the median strip, or think that sitting on broken yellow lines with the hazard lights flashing is an acceptable alternative to paying $4 for an hour’s parking.

The top photograph tells a typical story. The truck was parked on yellow lines and the footpath in Tory Street on Saturday afternoon, and I watched the driver and his mate walk into the store on the corner, emerging a few minutes later having bought drinks and pies and a packet of smokes.

A few hours later in Miramar, the 4WD driver zoomed across the intersection, parked on the footpath – and yes, those are empty car parks directly in front of him and around the corner – following the siren call of a purchase at the dairy.

In both cases this is terrible driving. There was no compelling emergency, just arrogance and bad behaviour behind the wheel. Yet had the spy car been present, both drivers would undoubtedly have claimed they were being “persecuted” and that the Council was only interested in revenue raising.

Wellington motorists have it remarkably easy. The city is over-supplied for both on-street and off-street parking – we have more car parks per capita than Los Angeles, the world capital of motoring – and the cost of metered parking hasn’t changed in eight years. Accounting for inflation, the cost of parking a car on the street has fallen by 23% since 2004, when the Council last raised the charges. So there’s really no excuse for illegally parking in the capital.

Motorists who feel like they’ve had a rough ride from the Council’s spy car have been quick to criticize the Council in the media and claim extenuating circumstances for why they were parked on yellow lines, double parked or blocking footpaths. But in essence, all these excuses boil down to the same thing: “I know what the road rules are, but I don’t think they should apply to me” – just like the drivers in the photographs. Sadly, it’s exactly this attitude that causes people to speed, to use their cellphones whilst driving and to not put on their seat belts – with the predictably devastating results we saw over the holidays.

We teach children that the small things matter, and that it’s important to start as you mean to go on. The same principles apply to drivers as well. Perhaps if Wellingtonians were a bit more observant of the basic road rules – like parking restrictions – it would pay dividends in the number of people killed on the roads, because they’d be less inclined to play fast and loose with with the rules aimed at keeping people alive. And then the spy car could be gracefully retired through lack of use.

So if you’re keen on avoiding the attentions of the spy car, all you have to do is follow the road rules. It’s not hard, and it may even build a habit that saves a life.

Kent Duston is a past-President of the Mt Victoria Residents Association who thinks that cars belong on the roads, not the footpaths.

January 30:
Council to review spy car policies

50 comments:

  1. Spy Farce, 23. January 2012, 9:20

    Could you please supply the number of fatalities attributed to passenger vehicles (excluding buses) in say, the last 5 years within wcc boundaries and explain how the ‘spy car’ could have prevented these.

     
  2. Laura, 23. January 2012, 9:24

    The pole on the edge of the footpath that supports the veranda is blocking the 4WD from parking on the footpath, so I don’t see how you can claim that the 4WD pictured above is parked on the footpath in Miramar.

     
  3. Geoff, 23. January 2012, 11:04

    Keeping left is also a rather large driving skill.

     
  4. Kent Duston, 23. January 2012, 11:18

    “Spy Farce” – I’m going to make the mistake of treating your comment as worthy of response rather than a simple troll. So if you’d care to fire up Google for a second, you would discover that the Regional Council collects the crash statistics, and they had this to say about the trends in Wellington since 2007:

    “A fresh approach to road safety in the Wellington region is required, in the light of alarming road crash statistics, according to a report to this week’s Regional Transport Committee.

    “The report, to be considered by the Committee on Wednesday (8 April), recommends the development of a new regional road safety plan. “It is clear that a ‘business as usual’ approach is not continuing to improve road safety,” says Joe Hewitt, Greater Wellington’s Transport Strategy Development manager.

    […]

    “A working party of staff from the NZ Transport Agency, Greater Wellington, Wellington City Council and the Police investigated the statistics and found that:
    – The increasing crash numbers appear to be real and not explained by increased reporting
    – Fatal and serious crashes have increased well above the rates of travel and population, indicating that the region’s road safety is getting worse”

    http://www.gw.govt.nz/Road-safety-re-think-required

    There’s more, but you should be able to get the idea by now. Our regional crash statistics are getting worse – primarily due to worse driving – so taking a zero-tolerance approach to even simple breaches of the road rules would seem like a sensible and prudent step.

     
  5. Ron Oliver, 23. January 2012, 11:26

    Perhaps there would be no need for Spy cars if we had a better traffic system. Of course oil companies and the motor car industry would suffer to some extent if there was less traffic congestion with the introduction of a better public transport system in the city but hay! Think how much better it would be for people who are in or come to the city if this place was not clogged up with private vehicles. The other benefit is of course is that it would be a much safer place for pedestrians.

     
  6. Lindsay Shelton, 23. January 2012, 11:44

    Geoff – I agree. I keep finding myself having to swerve to avoid drivers – all over Wellington – who can’t keep to the left of the centre lines. Including buses on narrow streets such as Washington Avenue, where bus drivers treat the white line as the centre of the space that they’re allowed to occupy. They’re bigger than cars so it’s the cars which have to brake, and swerve.

     
  7. Kent Duston, 23. January 2012, 11:49

    Laura – I can verify that he was, in fact, partly parked on the footpath because I took the photo after going and taking a look at the vehicle. For the record, he was also partly parked on the dotted yellow line that runs between the pedestrian crossing and where the P15 zone starts, and I can also verify that both the P15 area and the parks around the corner were completely empty. Never underestimate the arrogance and/or stupidity of a bad driver, hey?

     
  8. Laura, 23. January 2012, 14:21

    Kent, there are no dotted lines on the road from the pedestrian crossing to the allocated P15 car park. The 4WD you photographed was parked legally and inside the car park space boundary allocated by the WCC. The 4WD was not partly on the footpath as it would have been impossible as the P15 sign on the pole is 18cm from the edge of the footpath blocking this from happening. If the car as you claim was parked on the footpath, the photo would have shown the vehicle to be tilted. This is why spy-cameras aren’t such a good idea.

     
  9. Kent Duston, 23. January 2012, 19:13

    Laura – there’s no good way to say this, so I’m just going to come out with it. You’re wrong. The 4WD is parked clearly and unequivocally on the footpath, and so is a ripe and ready target for the spy car.

    However rather than trying Lindsay’s patience with the long-winded explanation that involves additional photographs, CSI:Miramar has posted the results of the forensic investigation here: http://mtvictoria.org.nz/?q=node/211

     
  10. Curtis Nixon, 23. January 2012, 21:21

    I took a quick look on Google Earth and there are no yellow lines visible between the pedestrian crossing and the P15 car park. Also, I was interested to discover recently that there is no parking bylaw prohibiting cars being parked on the footpath as long as there is 1m of footpath space remaining. I would like to see far fewer on-road carparks on busy suburban roads such as Adelaide, Rintoul and Constable Sts. But in wider, less busy streets like this what is the problem?

     
  11. Kent Duston, 23. January 2012, 21:52

    Curtis – The issue with the 4WD is the sheer unnecessary bad driving that his antics represent. There was no compelling reason for his parking on the footpath, as driving forward a few metres would have seen him parked in a perfectly legal fashion. Unfortunately it’s an embodiment of that peculiar mix of arrogance and incompetence that characterizes too many Wellington drivers.

    And irrespective of what the parking bylaw might say, his actions are clearly illegal under the Road Code:

    “You must not park or stop your vehicle:
    – where it will be in the way of other people using the road (including pedestrians)
    – near a corner, curve, hill, traffic island or intersection, if it will stop other people from seeing along the road
    – on any footpath
    – on, or closer than 6 metres to, an intersection, unless there are parking spaces or a notice telling you that you can park there … ”

    http://www.nzta.govt.nz/resources/roadcode/about-driving/where-not-to-park.html

    So he was parked in the way, blocking a sightline, on a footpath, and closer than 6m to an intersection, in direct violation of the Road Code. He’s hardly a shining example of driving excellence.

     
  12. Laura, 24. January 2012, 11:03

    Rang Tony at Parkwise to take a look at the above photo in Miramar, and he said a parkwise officer would walk right past it without ticketing it. Hardly ripe for a spy-camera ticket? It is WCC policy to be a little more relaxed in the suburbs, and the vehicle would have only been ticketed if a complaint had been lodged by a member of the public.

     
  13. traveller, 24. January 2012, 11:27

    Laura – it sounds as if you’re hoping for cars to park on the pavement outside your Newtown shop. I don’t think that Parkwise should be turning a blind eye to cars parked on pavements anywhere in Wellington

     
  14. Tony Randle, 24. January 2012, 13:05

    Kent claims:”we’re no better around Wellington’s narrow streets, which is why the much-maligned “spy car” is such an essential tool.” I think another name for “narrow streets” is sub-standard roads. For example, many Wellington streets are far below the 6.5m width recommended for two-way traffic. It is simply not possible to drive around Wellington without regularly pulling over to let oncoming traffic through. Often, when 2 cars meet, the only place to pull over is marked with yellow lines or a bus stop meaning one of the cars MUST BREAK THE RULES !

    At least foot based traffic wardens can recognise this and many similar situations caused by cramming more cars and people into the same narrow strip of land called the CBD. However, what the spy car does, from a distance and without adequate visibility of the situation, is photograph a driver who had to break the rule but is actually only being a responsible driver (another requirement of the Road Code). Just think what would happen if no-one pulled over !

    Yes, there are arrogant and irresponsible drivers who deserve to be fined. But only about 3% of parking fines are overturned (lower than many other cities) yet I am sure that 97% of Wellingtonians who are fined do not fall into the category of law-breakers. It is these people who rightly protest the spy car’s secret and blind application of regulations.

    Kent also claims:”The city is over-supplied for both on-street and off-street parking.” This may be true for the Wellington Region but it is certainly NOT true for the CBD. We don’t pay the highest parking fees in the country due to an “over-supply” of parking but a chronic shortage ! The city actively discourages additional parking capacity to promote public transport use (that it makes an enormous amount in fees and fines is just a coincidence). I have even experienced the frustration of driving into the CBD to shop but cannot find any park and then going to Queensgate. (It is so bad it makes you think the Westfield Mall is paying someone to have this policy). There is a lack of CBD capacity for the demand . . . it is as simple as that !

    Kent finally states: “So if you’re keen on avoiding the attentions of the spy car, all you have to do is follow the road rules.” As I have explained above, this is simply not possible to comply 100% with the Road Code on the sub-standard sealed tracks that pass for roads in many parts of Wellington city including the CBD. (You also don’t see such roads in any Road Code diagrams or guidance in the Road Code about what to do when driving in such conditions.)

    Luckily, there is a much easier way to avoid the puritanical regulations and attentions of the spy car. This is to completely avoid Wellington City (including its congested CBD) and drive to the more car friendly places such as Queensgate and Porirua. This is what large numbers of Wellingtonians are doing and will increasingly do.

     
  15. Wombat, 24. January 2012, 14:30

    Hi Kent – Great article. The comments that have been posted so far are interesting to read, too.
    It sounds to me as if Laura either knows who owns that 4WD or it’s hers.
    The question about why it appears not to be be tilted can be explained by suspension – it is a 4WD after all. I would be surprised if Parkwise would have turned a blind eye to this, any more than they do when someone parks in a disbled park without displaying the correct sign in their windscreen. It’s a shame that you didn’t take the photo so that the number plate was visible, because then you could have supplied it to them to follow up.

    Traveller – Parkwise should be out in force around the schools once they go back – as I pass so many cars that are illegally stopped to set-down and pick-up their children. The parents seem to think that the pavements are there for their benefit, and not the parents who walk their kids to school and back. More parents should be forming a walking school bus, at least during the warmer and dryer days.

     
  16. Kent Duston, 24. January 2012, 17:08

    Laura – It’s good that you called Parkwise, because it reinforces the point I made in the article that Wellington drivers actually have it pretty easy. In my experience the parking wardens seem happy to grant some latitude and not ticket everyone who’s in technical breach of the Road Code, despite this strange counter-factual meme that they are busy oppressing the poor downtrodden (and entirely innocent) motorists.

    Tony – Like you, I would also prefer to see a bit more context for the spy car. At least one person has suggested that a video camera would be a better determinant of how bad the driving behavior really was, rather than a still camera. With any luck one of the Councillors will suggest this as a useful part of the review of the spy car.

    However your points about the narrowness of streets and the like seem a little less sensible. Wellington’s always had narrow, congested and twisty streets and always will. Those “sub-standard sealed tracks” have existed for more than 100 years, so this is not new news – although perhaps the fact that cars and 4WDs are growing progressively larger with each generation of vehicle has as much to do with the congestion as any putative narrowness of the roads.

    And your claim that there is insufficient parking in the CBD just doesn’t hold any water, I’m afraid. If you go and talk to the carpark operators – such as at James Smiths – they’ll tell you that they are very seldom full; on a typical weekday they are barely at 70% capacity. And if parking were really as constrained as you claim, they wouldn’t need to offer early-bird specials for all day commuters or hand out flyers about discount deals on the streets, both of which are a fact of life in the capital.

    So deciding you can’t find a park in the CBD and then driving to Queensgate looks like the heights of economic irrationality. It’s about 20km and 20 minutes from the CBD to Queensgate, and the trip backwards and forwards will cost you just as much in petrol alone as an hour’s parking and a few minutes walking at one of the not-close-to-being-full parking buildings in town!

     
  17. Tony Randle, 25. January 2012, 13:11

    Kent: “… your points about the narrowness of streets and the like seem a little less sensible. Wellington’s always had narrow, congested and twisty streets and always will.”

    You do not confirm (or deny) your understanding that it is simply not possible to not break some road code rules and so risk being fined when driving around some parts of Wellington.

    Yes Wellington has always had narrow streets but, until the spy car, Wellington Parking Wardens have, to varying degrees, always also exercised some discretion on whether to ticket cars such as those that briefly stop for various reasons. This need for exemptions is also recognised in road regulations. The spy car does not and really cannot exercise such discretion which is why it is seen as so unfair. It does not make roads safer, it just makes money.

    As for going to car park building operators! The $4/hour street charge is bad enough without being ripped off in a $6/hour parking building. Especially when you can drive to Queensgate and park for free. Shopping is supposed to be fun and relaxing . . . I am not going to fork over $12 to window shop or browse. You can now only enjoy shopping on from the Golden Mile on weekends when parking is free (of course this is why it is so popular and why there are then no car parks). There is simply not the car park capacity in the CBD to support the demand.

    Anyway, you can keep your views and the WCC can keep the damn spy car. Now I understand the council’s attitude to shoppers who must drive, my family will continue, even more, to shop where we are welcome 😉

     
  18. Trish, 25. January 2012, 20:51

    Research has shown that illegally parked cars are associated with 9.2% of retail sales in the Wellington CBD. Just think of the negative impact on the city’s economy if they were effectively removed by council enforcement. It is everyone’s duty to park creatively and help the world go round.

     
  19. Phil C, 25. January 2012, 23:12

    I’m not sure if harsher parking fines will correct the impulsive, aggressive and childish behaviour of many New Zealand drivers. The only thing that can be done is to improve roads (both width and surface, and more median barriers) and have cars with more safety features. Oh, and ban alcohol advertising. Shouldn’t promote lethal substances to people. Many people, men and women, young and old, experience a personality change when behind the wheel, and it is a bit exacerbated in New Zealanders. You can’t change people so you just have to change the environment they want to crash into.

    An alternative would be a six-month driving course through rush-hour London traffic to observe courtesy and intelligence.

     
  20. Kent Duston, 26. January 2012, 8:36

    Tony – The AA tell me that your car will be costing somewhere between 45 cents and 75 cents per kilometer to drive – including fuel, insurance, depreciation, maintenance and all the rest – depending on size, so driving the 40 km from town to Queensgate and back again to get free parking is costing you somewhere between $16 and $40. If you think it’s a great idea to spend that kind of money to avoid a $4 parking charge, then it’s no wonder the Queensgate retailers are so overjoyed to see you! I think the precise phrase is “cutting off your nose to spite your face … ”

    Trish – Research also shows that 76.2% of statistics are invented on the spot. So please post a link to the research – in the immortal words of Wikipedia, “citation required”.

     
  21. Maximus, 26. January 2012, 9:46

    Loving this conversation! Especially Trish’s obviously highly researched “fact” that: “Research has shown that illegally parked cars are associated with 9.2% of retail sales in the Wellington CBD.” Hmmm, I wonder on the accuracy of the source on that…
    But there are a number of interesting points raised in this stream of consciousness, apart from Laura trying pointlessly to stick up for the 4-wheel drive that is SO OBVIOUSLY parked on the pavement with at least its left front wheel, that I don’t know why she goes on about it – and of course, the reason that it is parked there is that the driver owns a flash 4WD and therefore always thinks they they are better than others (quick, invent a statistic to back that up: 98.79% of Porsche Cayenne drivers think they’re superior to you).

    The most interesting point though, is Tony Randle’s comment that :
    “I think another name for “narrow streets” is sub-standard roads. For example, many Wellington streets are far below the 6.5m width recommended for two-way traffic. It is simply not possible to drive around Wellington without regularly pulling over to let oncoming traffic through. Often, when 2 cars meet, the only place to pull over is marked with yellow lines or a bus stop meaning one of the cars MUST BREAK THE RULES !”

    My guess (unsubstantiated by actual factual corroborated evidence) is that our high road toll occurs mainly on roads that are NOT narrow Wellington streets. These narrow Wellington streets are the best thing for keeping speeds down, and road tolls down, and make Wellington full of character. Modern suburban streets constructed to “modern” standards, with wide complying roadways, broad sweeping curves, and broad verges, allow cars to speed through – go up to Churton Park to see horrible complying roads, and speeds there are far higher.

    Our real reason our road toll is high is that we have a small population in a long thin country, and don’t have enough money to make the whole lot 2 lanes, so people speed up to overtake. The simplest thing to resolve this is to install a few more Overtaking lanes. I recently drove from Taupo to Rotorua, and there was not a single overtaking lane for the first half of the trip, and then about 13 overtaking bays in the second half. Better spacing between them would have been helpful, especially on a road full of logging trucks – dangerous to pass, but tempting when they are fully laden going up a hill.

    We’ll never be able to build a 8-lane highway form Auckland to Wellington as some dick wrote to the DomPost recently, and nor should we ever want to!

     
  22. Traveller, 26. January 2012, 10:06

    The government’s Transport Agency (the one that wants to build a flyover at the Basin) doesn’t like passing lanes. After the latest fatality north of Paraparaumu, it responded by closing the passing lanes – saying this would make things safer. What can you do when such thinking is in charge of our main roads? Mind you, the city council’s road planning is equally strange – the council persists in allowing cars to park on blind corners in narrow streets, and allowing cars to park in streets which are so narrow that they become one-way thoroughfares, but without any warning.

     
  23. Laura, 26. January 2012, 14:17

    Curtis Nixon rightly points out that the 4WD wouldn’t have been ticketed as there was more than a metre clearance. Trish is also right, that the unfair targeting of the spy camera car is affecting the vibrancy for retailers and consumers in our city. What is disturbing is that it is sending consumers like Tony Randle and his spending dollars out into the suburb malls, and who could blame him. Time for the Councillors to take the unfair spy camera vehicle off the road, and show us retailers, shoppers and citizens some goodwill.

     
  24. Tony Randle, 26. January 2012, 15:10

    Kent: Sorry, but your analysis of the costs of my driving from Lambton Quay to Queensgate is just wrong. Do you know the difference between total cost and marginal cost ? You should NOT include any fixed costs (such as insurance or registration) in this calculation because I pay these whether I drive to Queensgate or not. I also have a small car and live in North Wellington (which you would not have known). It is therefore under 30km to drive from Lambton Quay to Queensgate (where I can park for 4 hours for free) to home.

    The 2011 AA report on running costs (fuel, maintenance) for my car is only 19.9cents/km and so the whole trip only cost me less than the $6.00 which would only get me an hour in a CBD parking building (and is much less than being fined by the spy car for being “double parked” waiting for a car to pull out). My decision was totally logical.

    I also again note your silence on my assertion that people cannot reasonably drive around Wellington without breaking the regulations you claim should be so rigorously enforced. Is you silence on this issue an admission you agree ? Do you admit that fines from the zealous enforcement of WCC parking policy just part of the cost of coming into town ?

    Maximus: Thank you for also refuting the claim that having drivers fined for temporarily stopping on narrow roads has any safety benefit. As you rightly point out, narrow roads cause traffic to slow (and often stop) meaning any conflict is at low speed. Of course the claim in Kent’s article of a connection between the Wellington Region’s rise in road deaths and parking enforcement in Wellington’s CBD is just nonsense . . . it’s not about safety, it’s about gro$$ profit$.

     
  25. The City is Ours, 26. January 2012, 15:13

    Thank you Tony: sub-standard is indeed the correct term to use particularly for the CBD where big yellow buses are prioritized over safety of residents and visitors alike.

     
  26. Kent Duston, 26. January 2012, 18:29

    Tony – I’m sorry to point out the lack of logic in your financial analysis for the second time, but as anyone who has ever bought or sold a car can explain, depreciation and maintenance are both linked to distance travelled – which means they are marginal costs, not fixed costs. So your trip to the mall is indeed costing you more than the (legal) parking in town.

    Your comments seem to indicate that you prefer Queensgate over the CBD, and good on you – perhaps it’s the attraction of the excellent coffee, the superb culinary adventures in the food hall or the simple aesthetic delight of spending a few hours inside a windowless concrete box – but let’s not dress it up as some kind of rational economic decision.

    And your comment that the spy car is only about revenue raising is equally specious. Are you suggesting – like Laura – that the drivers in the two photos are really as pure as the driven snow, and that there’s nothing wrong with parking a five-tonne truck on the pavement providing it makes an extra dollar for the local retailer? That there’s simply no safety value at all in observing the Road Code?

    Laura – Given you’re such a fan of Trish’s comments, do you think you could ask her if she could post a link to that alleged research about the value of illegally parked shoppers? It’s just that it’s been a good 24 hours and we haven’t heard from her. Thanks!

     
  27. Trish, 27. January 2012, 11:38

    Kent: The published research on the contribution of illegally parked cars to shop turnover in the Wellington 1998-2007 is well known by everyone familiar with the facts, and you should not need me to tell you where to obtain a copy. Can you let us know if you have evidence that it is less than 9.2% of the city’s retail business. Otherwise I stand by what I know to be fact.

     
  28. Kent Duston, 27. January 2012, 12:53

    Trish – Thanks for confirmation that the research is mythical and doesn’t exist. However in the spirit of not wanting to dismiss your claims out of hand, I did do some research to verify that the report is a figment of your imagination.

    The first (and most obvious) step was to do a Google search on the phrase “contribution of illegally parked cars to shop turnover in the Wellington 1998-2007” … which returned nothing, basically. If you filter for NZ documents (because this is NZ research, right?) the top hit is a PDF document about perceptions of children’s rights in early childhood settings – in other words, irrelevant nonsense. You can try this at home and see if it works as well for you too!

    So we can conclude that not only is the research not online, but neither is there a press release or media story about such an interesting and compelling “fact”. Oh well, I thought, maybe whoever did the work wanted to keep it secret from the world!

    Except Trish said “[it] is well known by everyone familiar with the facts, and you should not need me to tell you where to obtain a copy”. Perhaps I’m sufficiently dense that I do need someone (like Trish, perhaps) to tell me where to obtain a copy but in the continued spirit of investigation I called the Wellington City Council and the Retailers Association to see if either organization knew about the report, and perhaps had a copy they could send me.

    Nope – neither organization knew anything about it. Which is kind of odd, because you’d think that the Retailers Association in particular would be trumpeting the results of the research every time the issue of parking enforcement came up in Wellington.

    Now admittedly this isn’t the most conclusive search in the world – I never called the head office of the Ancient and Venerable Order of Buffaloes, for instance – but it seems strange that the two organizations that would benefit most from the high-quality information in the report were in the dark about it. So we have a report that can’t seem to be found on the web or in real life, but which Trish claims “is well knows by everyone familiar with the facts ..” There seem to only be two possibilities:

    1. The report could be part of a secret conspiracy, where the contents are so explosive and revolutionary that the knowledge can’t be trusted to just anyone, in case the foundations of society are shaken. Everyone who has seen the report has been sworn to secrecy as part of a global conspiracy like in the Da Vinci Code (only without the really bad acting), and at this moment the black-clad ninjas are racing around to Trish’s house before she unintentionally divulges yet more information about the sacred illegal parking/retailing texts; or
    2. Trish just made it all up.

    Which of these answers is correct will be left as an exercise for the reader.

     
  29. Iona, 27. January 2012, 13:32

    Hi Trish

    Unlike Kent, I’m not familiar with “the facts” but I am still interested in knowing where to obtain a copy of this research into the economic benefits of illegally parked cars.

     
  30. Tony Randle, 27. January 2012, 13:51

    Kent, I must first state that I responded to you article because I would rather shop and dine in the CBD but cannot find an affordable park. I do not continue this discussion for fun but because I believe you are wrong in your view of the value of the spy car at the most fundamental level (and I fear you also reflect the WCC view).

    Kent claims: “Tony – I’m sorry to point out the lack of logic in your financial analysis for the second time, but as anyone who has ever bought or sold a car can explain, depreciation and maintenance are both linked to distance travelled – which means they are marginal costs, not fixed costs.”

    Kent, you were the one who brought the AA car costs into the discussion. I feel obliged, because it directly refutes another of your claims, to quote from the AA report I (& you probably) used (Petrol Car Operating Costs 2011):
    “The operating cost calculations are a combination of two components, the fixed costs (registration, insurance warrant of fitness and depreciation) and the operating costs (fuel and maintenance).”

    Depreciation is NOT, in AA’s view, part of operating costs. To be clear, I used their operating cost estimates that include maintenance for my calculation earlier.

    I also agree that both of your examples should be ticketed (sorry Laura). It is interesting that Laura can point out the possible validity of even your examples; this does highlight that ticketing from a photograph taken from one angle is problematic. I would agree that most of the tickets issued by wardens and the spy car are probably valid and deserved . . . but not all.

    I write based on the examples in the original DomPost article of the guy who parked across angle parking and, especially, the lady who was ticketed after she pulled over to let the spy car past. These fines are just wrong.

    Take the latter example, the lady did the right thing but, no matter what she did, she could not avoid breaking a regulation. Referring to “Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004”. If she did not pull over, she breaks Rule 2.1 (2) on “Keeping Left”. When she did pull over onto a yellow line she broke Rule 6.4 (4) on “Parking contrary to notice, traffic sign, or marking”. She did the right thing under Rule 1.8 (1) on “General Exemptions”.

    Of course, the spy car also clearly broke Rule 6.11 on “Double Parking” when it halted beside the lady to take the picture. Assuming the spy car driver took the photo, he/she may have also breached Rule 7.3 (1) on “Unsafe vehicles and loads”. On either instance, surprise surprise, the spy car used its discretion not issue itself a ticket !

    The Road Rules are all about safety (as are many other laws and regulations). However, contrary to the article, it is my belief that these rules and laws are effective when they are applied with reasonable discretion, not by a vigorous, to the letter, approach. The spy car can only do the latter which is why it has no effect on safety or even treat reasonable people reasonably.

    I am one who wants to come into the CBD to shop and dine but I cannot ever be sure of finding a car park (at a reasonable price) or be fined during the process of finding one. I just hope some councillor is reading this debate and takes on the feedback on this issue as they evaluate the future of the WCC spy car.

     
  31. Lindsay Shelton, 27. January 2012, 15:13

    Tony: I really don’t understand why you’re having problems finding affordable parking in Wellington. At lunchtime today (one of the busiest days of the week) I drove into the CBD and found plenty of empty parks in Kent Terrace for only $1.50 an hour. I paid $3 for two hours (a most reasonable price) and then it took me less than five minutes to walk into Courtenay Place. Yesterday, also at lunchtime, I drove into the CBD and found free parking at the top of Cuba Street (with a one-hour limit, which allowed plenty of time for lunch). And if you’re coming into the city in the evening for a meal, then there’s no charge at all (except on Fridays till 8pm, but who wants to eat before 8?) Who needs Lower Hutt when there’s Cuba Street and Courtenay Place, with plenty of affordable parking.

     
  32. Andy Foster, 27. January 2012, 15:42

    Tony – some councillors are reading the debate ! (likely at least two judging from the contributors).

    We are going to review the operation of the car over the next few weeks. I think we all recognise that parking enforcement is necessary for safety and traffic circulation reasons and to ensure turnover of carparks. However I think we’d also want to ensure that enforcement is widely seen as reasonable and fair, and that as best we can in the space constrained environment of the central city, Council is providing for parking needs. Obviously that’s about short stay parking, commercial servicing etc, not providing for long stay parking. That’s covered by parking buildings. There are a number of things that we will look at in the review. There will be a press release out shortly on that. We would certainly like to see you continuing to visit and shop in the central city Tony.

    Final comment, and tongue firmly in cheek Trish – from the school of ‘you can do anything with statistics’ – I think these numbers are vaguely about right but don’t rely on them too heavily! Council issues something around 270,000 tickets a year. 70,000 vehicles a day come into the CBD – making 25 million-ish a year. If every ticket Council issued was in the CBD (they aren’t) 1% of them got ticketed. So if your 9.2 % was right Trish, then Council’s wardens are inefficiently missing out on 90% of the potential revenue. Got to love statistics !

     
  33. Tony Randle, 27. January 2012, 18:06

    Lindsay – The real shopping is not over at Courtenay Place but on Lambton Quay where casual parking is between $4/hour (on the street) and $6/hour (parking building). I can park for free at Queensgate for 4 hours and have done so before Christmas. I can only park for 2 hours on Lambton Quay and will have to pay $8.

    Yes there are cheaper parks further away . . . but with a busy family there is often not time to constantly walk (it is often far enough just to walk up and down Lambton Quay). The malls may be bland but the shops are faster to get to and quicker to get around.

    Andy: Thanks, please can you also note that many “short-term” visits to the CBD take more than the 2 hour limit on street parking (e.g. see a movie). The cost of being forced into a parking building in such circumstances, even when street parking is free, is always a factor when budgetting to attend weekend/public holiday events in town. But I know you understand and will appreciate such feedback 🙂

     
  34. Phil C, 28. January 2012, 6:09

    Kent: thanks for a very funny response to Trish’s “facts”.

    Tony: are you seriously saying that a 10 minute walk to and from Lambton Quay is that hard on family life?

    Lesson to all: take the bus.

     
  35. Trish, 28. January 2012, 16:06

    Andy, thanks for that. I checked again with my original source and found that I had the decimal point in the wrong place. The contribution of illegal parking to the CBD economy (ignoring the contribution to the council coffers, recently greatly enhanced by the spy car) should have been 0.92%. I apologise to anyone who has been mislead by my earlier comments. But it is good to have confirmation from an independent source and different methodology. Technically it is known as triangulation.

    Kent: I am not sure that you really did contact the retailers association. Or at least I have not been able to verify that you have. I think you made that up too.

     
  36. Don't Go Wellington, 28. January 2012, 18:04

    Phil C: how much would it cost a family of 4 to get the bus from the suburbs to lambton quay and home again? More than parking fees, a real incentive to get the bus!! They should make public transport dirt cheap then more people would use it.

     
  37. Kent Duston, 28. January 2012, 21:25

    Trish – The first rule of finding yourself in a hole is “stop digging”. I highly commend this strategy.

    Tony – So if I sum up your comments, you want the roads to be wider so you don’t have to stop your car so often, you want free parking in the CBD to compete with the malls, you don’t want to have to walk very far to your destination, thus requiring (free?) parks outside the shops you want to visit in Lambton Quay, and you don’t want any enforcement of the parking laws because car drivers are all upstanding and law-abiding citizens who are being cruelly oppressed by the spy car. Have I got that right? Is there anything else you’d like the ratepayers of Wellington to provide for you? Free coffees, valet parking, foot massages … ?

     
  38. Tony Randle, 30. January 2012, 12:46

    Kent, your article concluded by stating: “if you’re keen on avoiding the attentions of the spy car, all you have to do is follow the road rules. It’s not hard . . .”

    Kent, it is not hard, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE, to follow the road rules to the letter in Wellington ! I believe I have shown your view on this to be an unreasonable, even extreme, position for the simple reason that nobody can navigate and park in many parts of Wellington, including the CBD, without breaking the letter of at least some road rules. This point was repeated in today’s DominionPost Editorial which had the great example of the need of a driver to double park during the recommended manoeuvre to get into a vacant parallel park.

    This being the case (and no-one including Kent has refuted this) it is therefore obviously unfair to have a spy car that goes around issuing parking tickets on the simple basis a rule has been technically broken. Unlike a normal parking warden, the spy car cannot exercise the proper discretion that is expected by both the regulations and any reasonable citizen. Some alternative means of operation may make it acceptable (such as circulating around the block or waiting some time period or using video) although, given the publicity, just having a spy car in Wellington now puts people (like me) off coming to town.

    As I already stated : “I am one who wants to come into the CBD to shop and dine but I cannot ever be sure of finding a car park (at a reasonable price) or be fined during the process of finding one.”

    As someone who lives in North Wellington, I have a real choice on whether to visit the shopping centre of my own, or neighbouring cities. I think my expectations not to be fined as part of the normal process of driving through Wellington is reasonable and the current spy car activities are not.

    It is up to the WCC to decide how to balance (and I understand it IS a balance) the need to police its very limited parking capacity, to gain revenue from parkers and the need to make the CBD an attractive place to shop. I will continue to make the everyday decision of where to shop based on my perception of which centre has the best shops, most reasonable access and most welcomes my business. I will await the results of the WCC Spy Car Review with interest.

     
  39. Kent Duston, 30. January 2012, 16:37

    Tony – As you’ll notice from further up the thread, I also think that some additional context for the spy car would be a good idea, and that the still camera should be replaced by a video camera so the wider circumstances can be considered. I’m on record as supporting this as a sensible and practical idea.

    But there’s simply no getting away from the fact that Kiwis are terrible drivers. You may well have the view that some road rules can’t be realistically followed in Wellington’s narrow streets – and as a driver myself, I don’t necessarily disagree – but that hardly makes the average Wellingtonian a paragon of driving excellence.

    Standing on a CBD street for ten minutes is illuminating. You’ll see the drivers talking on their cellphones, unrestrained kids, people who haven’t put on seat belts, the lack of indicators or any other form of lane discipline, the people stopping on yellow lines, inevitably some gratuitous speeding in the 30km/hr zones and a fair amount of red light running. In short, the sort of breathtakingly stupid behavior that means we have double the road toll per capita of Europe.

    So I have no sympathy with the idea of “Wellington’s beleaguered motorists”, in the emotive words of the Dom Post’s editorial writer. Too many of the people I see on the road – and the footpath – every day are clearly not bright enough to be left in charge of a couple of tones of speeding metal without endangering themselves and others around them. And while the spy car can’t fix the general level of stupidity on the road, it can certainly act as a deterrent for some of the more egregious examples of bad parking – which is shy I’m an advocate of its continued existence.

     
  40. Phil C, 31. January 2012, 3:04

    Don’t Go: it’s been a while since I lived in Wgtn so I’m not familiar with the prices. I remember the good old WCC red buses and 35c for a kid from Karori to Kilbirnie. No doubt thanks to a private company creaming a profit margin the prices are higher than they need to be. I don’t know if they have an integrated card that you can use across multiple transport options (trains, tube, buses and trams) in the region, like we have in London with the “Oyster” card. It’s not cheap (I’m in outer zone 5 and it’s £180 a month) but given that driving is much too slow it works.

    Once there is no more room to build more overpasses, bypasses, motorways etc in Wellington and the traffic grinds to a halt (again), an integrated approach to public transport may be favoured in Wellington. Hell, the place is small and those free market, public transport-hating dicks should drop dead in a generation or two or at least be dribbling incoherently about trickle down as their catheters do exactly that. Heck, NZ probably won’t be able to afford oil in a few decades. Anything extracted there will be sold overseas to higher bidders. Keep the trolley buses.

     
  41. Elaine Hampton Mt Vic., President, 31. January 2012, 22:45

    What a wonderful contribution to Wellington Village Life. Can we have this in book form ?

    Where else in New Zealand except Wellington could we have such good humour and absolutely pertinent responses to such a controversial local issue??????

    Come one and all to Crossways community House, Roxburgh St.,7.30 pm Tuesday 7th February – to hear Regional Councillors Paul Bruce and Darren Ponter inform us on changes to the Bus Policy and then you may not need to worry about the foreign controlled “Spy Car”.

     
  42. Mickey, 31. January 2012, 23:34

    I know public transport is better but I do like the convenience of my car. However I agree with Kent that the spy car is not all bad and most tickets are probably deserved. The problem is that they are operated by a private company that only has profit, not safety, as the sole objective.

    For the sake of CBD businesses, the City Council should sack the overseas slobs that manage parking . My own experience is that that I got a fraudulent ticket for exceeding two hours while I parked for only 40 minutes to have a haircut. Because the fine is not large compared to Wellington parking costs, most drivers would pay rather than face the hours of hassle to prove their innocence.

    I liked my inner city barber – he was a nice guy – but sadly it is too expensive to pay him plus the manufactured tickets that are required for parking staff to earn decent wages under a scheme that only rewards those who screw the most car owners.

    It is not all bad – they did me a favour (but not my CBD barber). I have now found a hairdresser that I walk can walk to and I have found that the cost of driving from Wellington to the more extensive and cheaper shopping at Porirua is less than paying for CBD parking.

    Despite my experiences of Wellington parking enforcement, I believe a spy car could be a useful tool. But this will never happen while WCC outsource their revenue producers to private companies whose ethics are limited to revenue and who don’t give a stuff about safety. Who has seen a spy car at a school drop off? No money there!

     
  43. elmer, 1. February 2012, 11:38

    This is brilliant!

    Councillors – as a citizen, househusband, cyclist – I am all for the spy car. Illegal parking is dangerous for my kids when they cross the road, and a real hazard for cyclists in congested places like Newtown.

    The need for illegal parking has been revealed in this thread. Many drivers are essentially cheap and lazy, sometimes belligerent – rather than finding a space and pay for it it is easier to ramp up on the pavement or double park. In truth, I speak from experience here but fines do change behaviour.

    Tony has hit the nail bang on – if you don’t like street parking, go to a mall. But for me, I prefer to shop in my city streets.

    Trish – go on, reveal your source for us! Pleeease! Triangulation. I love it.

    If you don’t feel like telling us where your information comes from then I have this great book called How To Lie With Statistics (Darren Huff – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/How_to_Lie_with_Statistics). It doesn’t have a section on repeatedly citing an unnamed source, or the use of figures that are able to change in the face of contrary evidence.

    Perhaps you could write a chapter for a new edition?

     
  44. Pete, 1. February 2012, 12:30

    The media’s reporting of the people caught by the spy car and the subsequent whingeing is quite extraordinary in one regard – they believe everything these people are saying. The spy car drivers don’t have a say, probably for employment law reasons. Why should we believe their excuses – we all make up reasons for minor transgressions which would not hold up in a court. The spy car represents Authority (bad) and the complainants represent the oppressed Joe Public (good). We WANT to believe these stories, and the same attitude attaches to almost any major issue where the public seems pitted against the Pwers that be. Christchurch, banking, oil exploration – it is so easy to rabble rouse, so hard to prove the point.
    I don’t believe that people pulling over on narrow roads to allow an oncoming vehicle to get through are being ticketed – what is true is that New Zealand drivers have never been taught to give way, to “zip” merge as they do in Europe, to allow someone in, to signal when they are pulling over or stopping or setting off. It is no wonder given kids of 15 are on the roads with only parental training.
    It’s an educational problem and it won’t be sorted until all new drivers are taught by professionals to a clear code based on good manners.,

     
  45. Phil C, 1. February 2012, 22:14

    You guys have a private company running parking enforcement? How about the schools? Are they giving out “Atlas Shrugged” to children in kindy? Coupons for health services? Rebates for donating organs? Have they outsourced elections to Halliburton?

     
  46. daMystery1, 4. February 2012, 0:35

    Ironically, the Traffic regulations actually state that a vehicle should not park on the road if it is practicable to park off the roadway.

     
  47. daMystery1, 4. February 2012, 0:44

    Reply to Mickey:

    That is a clasic example of why retailing is declining in Wellington City. If they seriously want retailing to survive then the CBD needs free parking restricted to a maximum of 30 minutes. Any less being insufficient to time to walk to and from a store, browse and purchase. I will NOT shop in Wellington City full stop with the lack of parking and rip off fees.

     
  48. John Clarke, 4. February 2012, 22:30

    daMystery: apparently something less than a quarter of people come into the city by car with the rest on public transport or by bike or by walking, so it won’t be much of a loss when you selfish and arrogant car drivers shop someplace else. I don’t drive and I can’t think of any reason why I should have to subsidise your free parking. People like you belong in the malls!

     
  49. Kent Duston, 4. February 2012, 22:39

    I notice the NZ Herald is running a story on the diabolical driving habits of New Zealanders:

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10783288

    The league table at the bottom of the article for deaths per million of population makes especially interesting reading:

    The world’s deadliest roads (2010)
    1 Greece 113 deaths*
    2 Romania 111 deaths
    3 United States 106 deaths
    4= Bulgaria, Poland 102 deaths
    5 Latvia 97 deaths
    6 Croatia 96 deaths
    7 Lithuania 90 deaths
    8 New Zealand 87 deaths
    9 Portugal 79 deaths
    10 Belgium 77 deaths
    18 Australia 60 deaths
    30 Great Britain 31 deaths

    So we’re better drivers than Lithuanians, but worse than the Portugese. And before anyone says “it’s the quality of the roads, us poor drivers can’t be blamed for our bad behaviour”, I notice that the United States is also a pretty deadly place despite spending even more on roading per capita than we do. However doing up your seat belt is not compulsory in the Land of the Free, so clearly they have the same issues with driver stupidity that we do.

     
  50. DLS, 13. February 2012, 13:54

    Here are the reasons I go to Queensgate – actually none are to do with the amount of money it costs to do it.

    By the time I’ve handed out all my spare change for school-related activities before 9am, I inevitably have none left for on-street parking. If I went to shops in several different parts of town, I’d need a whole bag of coins.
    There are NO places to buy childrens’ clothing in the CBD. Well, nothing affordable anyway.
    I can also combine the one trip to include whatever other big-box retail place (urgh!) I am inevitably needing to visit that day – I have to drive past them all anyway and they all have free parking as well.
    I only have one day per week free to shop – if it’s a southerly and pouring rain on that day, guess where I’d prefer to go?
    The distance between stores like Farmers, Briscoes and The Warehouse in the CBD precludes any sort of money-saving comparison shopping.

    I’m not that proud of bypassing the Wellington CBD but am at the stage when shopping needs to be done with maximum efficiency, greatest speed and least cost. The Wgton CBD is not really well set up to cater for people like me, i.e all the tens of thousands of people who only have between 9am and 3pm to achieve about 50 tasks.

    And I wish the spy car would come to my narrow street and blitz the stupid idiots who think it’s OK to park on the footpath ‘to keep the road clear’, thereby forcing all the children who live in my street to walk on the road to get to school and home again. Maybe I’ll ring up the council and ask them to send it.