Villains or super-heroes? Or is it just John Key collecting more "GST"?

I know there’s a lot of talk at the moment about the sensible sentencing trust particularly with the case of Malcolm George Chaston before the courts but while they’ve been busy trying to get rapists and kidnappers locked up for longer there’s one thing they’ve overlooked and it’s a huge oversight. I’m talking about parking fines.

Note to reader: I just want to reassure you that I do my verily best to be a law-abiding citizen and park legally. I have had the odd brush with the law when it comes to parking, only out of pure ignorance and male blindness, not out of any aspirations to be the James Dean of the parking world. In cases, where I haven’t been able to plead insanity (such as parking within 0.5m of a fire hydrant or in an unmarked cycle lane) I have duly paid my fines. Of course there are still times when a well-worded appeal does get you off the fine and that’s the gist of this post. And trust me, it does work, I have been let off with warnings for more than a hundred dollars worth of fines. Of course that’s nothing compared to the person who accumulates thousands of fines and then spends three days in jail to have it cancelled.

It started with an innocent trip into town, in fact a noble cause if you will. Those of you who know me realise that I am bereft of extended family in New Zealand – if I want an auntie or an uncle I have to import one from overseas, whether that is a good thing or a bad thing I’ll let you decide. But my journey into the centre of town this day was to see both an uncle, an auntie and 3 cousins imported from Australia by a visiting cruise ship. Now for me this was akin to staying up all night to watch Halley’s comet pass by, there was no telling if I’d be zimmer-frame material or daisy pushing by the time I got to see them again so, sure, this was by no means a casual visit.

On a typical Saturday afternoon the crowds are humming around the art gallery and finding a park is easy only if you have all 3 of your eyes configured around your head like a human flounder. So it seemed like I’d hit the jackpot when I spotted an empty space right across from the art gallery.

I didn’t even pause to consider it might still be metered parking.

After spending just under 2 hours getting acquainted (or is that re-acquainted? does it count if the last time I saw them was 20 years ago?) with cousins and desperately trying to tell them that Christchurch is not always grey, cold and uninteresting in the summer, I get back to the car to find a parking ticket. And not just a little ‘slap on the wrist’ $12 parking fine. A spanking good $40 fine. Ouch.

Now I have no issue with fronting up if I’ve done something wrong (well maybe I do just a little) but the punishment in my opinion was just a little on the heavy-handed side. Now before you write me off as a whiner – 2 things: (1) I know that parking wardens have a tough job, I don’t envy those fluro-coloured harbingers of doom one bit and (2) I know a lot of other people get parking tickets too. But still, $40? That’s more than a speeding fine. Speeding can kill. What’s so dangerous to society about a stationary car? Was it so ugly that it was giving passers-by bleeding eyes? Was it blocking a family of abandoned orphans from escaping a burning building? Was this perhaps a sign that I should stay away from extended family? I’m not sure but there were no doubts I had been a very naughty boy and would be made to pay. And pay I did. Fortunately the Christchurch City Council makes it easy for fools to part with their money – you can do it all online.

Or, if you happen to be feeling particularly titchy about the grand injustice of it all, you can contest your parking infringement online. No more Oscar-winning dramas at the Civic offices in Tuam street anymore. If you do choose to go into bat for yourself in the hope of getting off your parking fine, be confident, stick to the facts and be polite. Don’t be a blubbering sycophant – it won’t help. Of course slipping a fiver in the envelope might work. If nothing else you’ll get a friendlier rejection letter.

Just one last thing – double-check your next ticket to make sure it’s the real thing, otherwise you might find yourself spending up large at some Auckland bar.

When the punishment doesn’t fit the crime
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