QLDC dishes out $1.35m in parking fines in four months

by Lauren Pattemore - Jun 07, 2024

The Queenstown Lakes District Council dished out more than $1.35 million in parking fines in the first four months of this year - that's an average of $325,000 of fines per month.

It comes on top of $2.7 million in fines for the 12 months of 2023. 

But, not all of the infringements handed out by council contractors Cougar Security have been paid.

The council is still owed more than half-a-million dollars - $556,998 - from unpaid parking tickets handed out between January and April of this year, and more than $400,000 from unpaid parking tickets from last year.

The figures were supplied to Crux this week after a request under the Local Government Official Information and Meeting Act 1987 in response to increased reporting of what some are calling overzealous ticketing in Queenstown.

Crux has spoken to drivers ticketed for stopping on a broken yellow line for 13 seconds to complete a u-turn, for overhanging a loading zone into a bus stop for a 4am bread delivery, and for parking on the verge to complete an oil change

Last week delivery drivers and Cow Lane businesses also expressed frustration at receiving tickets for activities that have never been a problem before, with no communication from the council about any shift in enforcement policy.

Councillor Craig Ferguson has recently gone in to bat for one supplier facing a "mounting ticket pile", and says there’s a lot of frustration down the lane.

He believes a face-to-face with the affected parties and the council would help the situation, and ease some of the tension.

Councillor Niki Gladding says she has also recently been communicating with the council's enforcement team.

"I'm told the (council) waiver team has weekly meetings to discuss themes around waivers and there's a manual in place - with photos of different areas of town - to guide staff use of discretion when assessing waivers."

Councillor Gladding notes the tickets are issued by council contractor Cougar, while the waivers are processed by the QLDC.

"Despite the complaints, there do seem to be very good systems and processes in place for training and mentoring new enforcement staff and for auditing their performance."

She says the data from infringements and waivers are tracked by month and year, and the metrics seem stable over several years.

Her advice is to remember the rules exist to ensure the traffic flows and to ensure things generally run smoothly.

"My message for drivers would be to stick to the rules, so you don't go broke, but if...the rules are making your life ridiculously difficult or seem completely nonsensical, put in a request for service through the website or 'Fix it' app."

Crux reached out to all Queenstown-based councillors for comment yesterday afternoon asking for their thoughts on parking infringements.

Wānaka-based councillor and deputy mayor Quentin Smith provided comment on a Crux social media post on costly Cow Lane infringements last week, saying he had made some enquiries of staff.

"I confirmed there is insufficient room in upper Cow Lane for cars to pass a parked vehicle, therefore the no-stopping is deemed appropriate for avoiding restricting access to the private parking building behind O'Connell's and others."

He directed drivers to park in the loading bays outside of Mackenzie Coffee - but admitted it was confusing since the loading bays needed to be remarked.

As part of the official information request, Crux also asked the council for a breakdown of where revenue from parking fines goes, but the response appears to cover revenue generated from parking, including pay and display.

"Basically, the revenue from parking pay and display, plus the Church Street Wilson carpark, firstly covers operational costs in the parking cost centre including commission (for the Wilson carpark), maintenance of machines, a contribution to the Otago Regional Council of $700k for the bus subsidy, and other costs such as rates, electricity, insurance, interest, depreciation etc. The surplus balance of $0.6m in opex then helps to fund capex public transport improvements like bus shelters."

In May, national consumer affairs show Fair Go reported residents and visitors in the Queenstown Lakes pay more in parking fines than anywhere else in the country.

The council earns $49.93 per capita per year from people breaking local parking rules, and that's higher than the per capita amount received by other local authorities.

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