Wheel clampers in New Zealand are cowboys allowed to operate in any manner they see fit. Something has to change before the wild west gets wilder.
The New Zealand Herald has highlighted recently a few high profile cases of people who have run into wheel clampers with obviously nothing better to do than terrorise unsuspecting motorists.
Clampers can operate anywhere at any time with no signage and they thrive on the ambiguity around parking areas – what parking is designated and what isn’t. They can make up the offense and offer no evidence/documentation. They therefore can make up the times and exploit a situation with an unwary motorist and bully them into paying exorbitant fines.
Contrast that with legitimate parking enforcement. In Auckland City (as I’m sure elsewhere in the country and the world) – parking officers are dressed in uniform, carry electronic ticketing machines which indicate the time a ticket is issued and what the offense is for. Officers take photos to confirm the vehicle and this issues another time stamp on the ticket. In a pay and display area, this is valuable.
Further, we can dispute parking tickets – there is a process in place for grievances and we still have the use of our car.
My near miss
I had a brush with wheel clamping that left me a bit stunned and a bit furious. This story does have a happy ending though (by sheer luck).
It started with a routine drive down to a local car park adjacent a roundabout here in Auckland. I have parked there for years and never had an incident. I trundled off to get coffee but thought I’d pop into the TAB to place a sports bet. Little did I know, this ticket would save my bacon.
The clampers obviously saw me then go offsite to get a coffee, which apparently is a violation because I wasn’t visiting the premises my particular car park was designated for. So my wheel was clamped and there was a sticker on my window stating why I had been clamped. Needless to say, I freaked out a bit when I saw the $150 fine on the ticket.
The clamper came over and explained I had parked in the space for the bar and the went and then went offsite. I presented my TAB ticket and asked, “isn’t the TAB part of the bar?” Luckily it was, and he removed the clamp forthwith.
It was sheer luck I parked in that car park (who honestly looks at what store it is designated for when they’re only there for 10 minutes). It was sheer luck I went to the TAB and thus had proof I had visited the bar.
There were no signs saying that there were clampers around – which I find a bit dishonest, especially for those of us who routinely use that carpark without a care.
I won’t park there again, which decreases my likelihood of visiting the stores there – clamping could therefore be bad for businesses.
Wheel clamping – at least the New Zealand version, is organised theft in many cases. Clamping itself seems a violation of private property also. Sure, parking illegally should not be let go, but exploiting vague and often non-signage is sheer dishonesty.
Legislation is badly needed to curb cowboy wheel clampers who answer to no one. They can claim whatever they want with no supporting evidence. Their fines aren’t constrained and are often ridiculously high.
My concern is that soon an elderly person, who perhaps is unaware of some small sign indicating parking allocation is going to get shafted by one of these cowboy clampers. What if someone is unable to pay straight away? What about if the supposed “offense” happened at 11.30pm?
I suspect someone will get hurt before this is all settled by the powers that be. Clampers are in a confrontational game by nature and they don’t have public sympathy. At least parking infringement officers from Auckland Transport are doing a job that we are all aware of and there is no ambiguity (don’t park on yellow lines; don’t park longer than the allocated times etc…).
We may not like parking fines but at least in those cases we don’t feel like we’ve been “headed off at the pass” by cowboys with clamps attached to their belts.