Hopefully finally over his obsession with raised crossings, the Herald’s Bernard Orsman has found something to actually be outraged at.

Auckland ratepayers are subsidising the cost of towing, storing and releasing cars across the city to the tune of $15 million over five years.

Under a quirk in the law, Auckland Transport (AT) is prohibited from charging storage and release fees and is limited to charging vehicle owners a standard tow fee of $53.60 – when the average tow cost billed to AT for standard hours is $99.

In a typical month, AT tows about 1200 vehicles from clearways and bus lanes on the roads and council-owned facilities like parking buildings and parks.

AT parking boss Rick Bidgood said it has a five-year contract with Supercity Towing for $15m for all towing, storage and release costs.

Bidgood said the tow costs that can be passed on to motorists are set out in the Land Transport Act.

That is absurd but also in with the discussion last year about how parking fines hadn’t been updated in 25 years – and changing that was something Labour opposed. However looking at the Land Transport Act, surely storage and releasing costs should be covered by the “appropriate towage fee” clause.

Last year I calculated that if parking costs had just kept up with inflation (as of 2023), parking fines would be around 80% higher than they are today.

Furthermore, fines in Australia are even higher again, I noted:

  • In New South Wales fines start at A$117 ($129) and for some offences can go as high as A$704 ($774) and in some cases also result in demerit points. For example, parking within 10m of an intersection or on/near a pedestrian crossing would result in a A$352 ($387) fine and 2 demerit points.
  • Victoria’s fines range from A$92 to A$185.
  • In Brisbane fines range from A$71 up to A$575. Again using the example of parking to close to an intersection or pedestrian crossing the fine in Brisbane would be A$287.

Positively, it seems the minister is open to changing these.

Mayor Wayne Brown said the towing issue is another example of where outdated and unnecessary Government rules dictate what Auckland can and cannot do.

“It is ridiculous that Auckland Transport loses at least $50 every time a vehicle is towed,” Brown says.

“I have been bringing these issues to the attention of Minister [Simeon] Brown and I’m confident he understands the issue and is considering how to improve the situation,” said Brown, who is also pushing the Government for the council to have the power to set fines.

Simeon Brown said he was concerned by the low level of regulated fees, which is creating a major issue for both councils and the Police. Fees were last updated over two decades ago and are no longer recovering costs for services, he said.

“I have commissioned a review of towage and storage fees to support greater cost recovery. This is part of a wider review of road safety and parking penalties. Proposals are currently being developed for public consultation,” the minister said.

Bidgood said AT will only tow vehicles when necessary for safety, congestion and events.

“This is also why we choose to manage abandoned vehicle cases on streets where possible to keep operating costs at a minimum,” he said.

Updating these fines is an area we’d definitively be supportive of the minister doing. And given the Ministry had already done the work before Labour cancelled it, hopefully it’s something they could deliver fairly quickly.

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  1. “Yeah, gimme a Big Mac medium combo.”

    “Sorry, I need to check with my manager… OK, no we can’t do that because we lose money on every combo we sell. Are you REALLY hungry though?”

    “I mean, I’m quite hungry.”


  2. The last Labour Government cancelling updating these fine schedules, in a desperate attempt to avoid upsetting anybody, epitomises why they were judged unfit to actually govern any longer.

    They failed to make necessary decisions, and failed to impliment, in a timely manner, far too many of the decisions they had actually made.
    It is simply unconscionable that far too many of our roading laws are hopelessly compromised by both grossly insufficient enforcement, and grossly insufficient penalties.
    Our appalling road fatality rate, compared to our peers, is testament to successive governments placing being popular, ahead in priorities, then saving lives.

    Adopting the similar speed limit criteria, as most of our peers, the similar levels of enforcement, and similar levels of penalties, would do a lot more in curtailing early deaths, for far less investment, then funding a few but very grand roading projects.

    In fact the increased revenue, from fines, until their profound educational effects kicked in, would make such moves very largely self funding.
    Australians who have operated under such regimes for many years now are much more concious of speed limits then we are here, and consequently have a much lower road fatality rate.

    Our society still , with very considerable input from our media, prioritises driving exhilaration over overall road safety.

    It is difficult to sell the actual mundane utility of most of out driving. In just getting us from a mundane A, to to an equally mundane B in reasonable comfort , and in better time then most current alternatives.

    1. If the last Labour government had any awareness at all, they’d have realised from at least Easter last year that people hated them, and they were doomed regardless of what they did. They could have used their majority to actually do things instead of trying to pander to people that were never going to vote for them

    2. Vehicle Kilometres Travelled and number of vehicles increase rather than decrease.
      “the Government has decided to focus initially on reducing light vehicle use in Tier 1 urban areas, where it is expected to achieve 85% of the national VKT reduction target”
      It could have been achieved quickly and easily through increasing rego cost or introducing a Singapore style COE.

  3. How about we engage some diggers and other hefty construction vehicles to “clear” bus lanes and the like?

    Just sweep up the apparently illiterate pilots’ vehicles that interfere with movement around our great city?

    Isn’t the former “crusher” Collins now the Attorney General? There must be something legal that could be enforced to ensure repeat offenders are treated fairly? Gently suggested towards the wonders of public transport?

    There are some excellent, somewhat fascist / authoritarian solutions; but one hopes that our liberal democracy has better science, such as the toxicity of car fumes?

    bah humbug

  4. “appropriate towage fee” clause.”

    The appropriate towage fee is set in the “Transport (Towage Fees)Notice 2004”

    They are

    vehicle gross weight does not exceed 3500 kgs – between hours of 6.00 pm and 7.00 am Monday to Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays- $71.50

    vehicle gross weight does not exceed 3500 kgs – between hours of 7.00 am and 6.00 pm Monday to Friday (other than public holiday) -$53.60

  5. Old laws that were written before technology gave us so much more flexibility for managing problems! How about a different vision for how street parking is managed, how parking charges are set, and what constitutes a violation? Everyone should be able to register a cell phone number against their licence plate number, and if their car is found infringing the rules, be called up and asked to come and move their car. Given perhaps 5 minutes or 10 minutes to get there and move the car. Perhaps a deposit account provides funds so that the motorist can be charged, say, $5 for that call. Most people do not intend, I think, to infringe. And look, it would save Auckland Council money removing cars.
    Also, a change to the parking charges system could see parking charges escalate dramatically (not a fine, just a clearly established increase in rate for each additional period of time). This would make people less inclined to do whatever it is that people do that leads them to leave their cars in the wrong place for too long a period of time. The technology makes this possible. So the penalty rate of $12 (or the inflated equivalent) is just part of the parking levy for the first period beyond the minimum. It would be tied to people providing a payment mechanism so that the charges can happen automatically. Failing a payment mechanism, it gets added to the vehicle’s registration charge next time around.
    Sure, some deadbeads will not provide a way of paying, and the draconian and somewhat middle-ages method of towing cars away will have to happen, but with some thought perhaps the incidence could be dramatically reduced, and along with it the ‘subsidy’ that is the topic of this piece. And a further benefit would be that the gentle citizens of the city would be less likely to have to come into contact with the grotesque underbelly that is the towing industry.

    1. register cell phone number with number plate will not work. Imagine a family using a car so which family member will be driving on this day – do you have the answer to this?

      1. I can imagine an answer. In developing such a solution we would figure out the best answer. The point is to avoid the ‘towing event’. Perhaps trial and error would reveal the most effective mechanism. The family would have an interest in their car not being towed, so might figure out their own mechanism for making sure the call gets answered. But the main thing: way more social than coming back to find the car is not where you left it.

        1. No.

          When you park illegally you are fully aware you are parking illegally. No different to shop lifting.

          You should be fully punished for your crime (not something NZ is very good at, especially when it’s white collar/middle/upper class centred crime sadly).

      2. Starting a review to develop proposals for consultation. So any day now lol. Why consult? Just give councils the powers to enforce rules on the roads they own? If people don’t like it, they can vote. No need for this endless consultation blather on everything.

        1. Consult = Won’t happen but here’s some smoke and mirrors to make you think it will.

      3. We register vehicles to individual owners who are liable for all fines. Even if someone else was borrowing and driving it.

        Many countries even assign their equivalent of demerit points to owners from automated cameras (we don’t).

        Having a accessible contact details wouldn’t be a stretch, although it raises privacy concerns and wouldn’t really solve the vast majority of parking offences, people knowingly breaking the rules assuming they’ll get away with it.

        1. The article is about the loss Auckland suffers with each towing event. It said: In a typical month, AT tows about 1200 vehicles from clearways and bus lanes on the roads and council-owned facilities like parking buildings and parks. Jack says: people knowingly break the rules assuming they’ll get away with it.

          I think some of the owners of those 1,200 vehicles did not intend to break the rules. It might be possible to estimate the split. Given the deficit per instance, I think it would be worthwhile testing a system that told people: “hey, your car is about to be towed, you’ve got ten minutes to move it”, to see if that would reduce the number of vehicles that get towed, and therefore save some of that money. This would mainly be for the vehicles overstaying in bus lanes and clearways, but might also be helpful in other situations.

        2. We could also come up with a set of rules that your car will not be towed if you parked not in somebody’s way. These rules could then be made available for everyone, so that you can decide before you park whether you want to take the risk of being towed or not.
          This way, people are not informed AFTER they made the bad decision but are PREVENTED from making the bad decision in the first place.
          Revolutionary, isn’t it?

    2. Shift your perspective for a moment to that of the people being impacted by the illegal parking. Children are often put at risk because they aren’t seen by a driver, due to the poor visibility created by illegally parked vehicles. Illegal parking impacts the freedom of people with disabilities because they don’t when they’ll have to go out onto the road to get around a car.

      Illegal parking is antisocial behaviour with huge safety and asset damage implications. Leniency is neither equitable nor is it necessary. In plenty of cities, if you park illegally you can expect to not find your car there when you return. There’s no reason we should have to put up with a lesser standard.

      1. Fair enough, I was mainly thinking of the situations where people ‘overstay’, not where they are inconsiderate such as parking on the footpath, or in a way that causes safety issues.

        1. Are overstayers being towed? I thought that would only apply for illegally parked cars.

      2. Maybe we could require by law that all children be preceded by a person waving a red flag?

        Modern problems require modern solutions.

        1. Yeah, Technology, and drivers are smashing into buildings, traffic islands and trees that should clearly have been equipped with flashing lights so they could be seen too.

          It’s kind of a lovely idea for motorists to fund chaperones every time a child wants to go somewhere, in order to mitigate the dangers driving presents. But I don’t think the idea comes with funding, does it?

        2. Heidi of course the idea comes with funding. We have a lot of people in benefits who could be diverted to provide this service.

          Given the research jakey unearthed it seems this is a highly effective intervention. If you could give your child an 80% greater chance of people stopping for them why wouldn’t you be buying a simple flag tomorrow?

        3. If it increases your chance of surviving a car crash by 80%, why don’t you stay below 30kph on all roads starting tomorrow?

  6. Local and central governments should use taxes, charges, fees, and fines as a way to either incentivise and discourage various behaviours which are desirable or undesirable.

    Currently we tax labour – i.e. productive work – heavily. Charges for creating pollution and congestion are low or nonexistent. Fines for illegal parking are low. Fines for running red lights are not widely enforced. Profit from land speculation does not attract any tax. The list goes on.

    I’m not saying we can replace all income tax with other taxes, charges, and fines, but surely the dial can be turned slightly to make it a bit more even.

    1. Agreeing that we do tend to tax the wrong things to a big degree – but don’t forget there’s a huge admin cost attached to individual fees/taxes. Which is why, for example, toll roads in the past often spent much of their income on admin and maintenance of the tolling technology (yes, some of that overhead can be reduced with modern tech, but not all – it’s far easier to make a fixed sum from, say, taxing a single real estate speculation 😉

      1. It’s also far easier and cheaper to tax fuel but this government is canning the regional fuel tax. Also difficult to evade.

        1. This government has NFI. Just released today that they want a 4km road tunnel in Wellington to grow productivity. How does speeding up the trip to the airport for someone who is going on holiday help productivity. What’s the mantra again? Entitled to entitlement.

      2. As long as the fines/taxes cover the full cost of implementation and enforcement.

        The priority is driving better behaviours, not revenue raising.

        1. In general I agree, but you also need to consider the purpose of the fine.
          For revenue protection type fines, eg non-payment of parking charges, non payment of road user charges/vehicle registration, the fines can be revenue collecting but needs to be punitive enough and/or issued often enough that it is not a more favourable choice than paying properly.
          However for fines related to behaviour issues that impact safety the goal must always be to set the fine at a level that actually changes behaviour. If they are seen as a revenue gathering tool then it incentivises a regulatory approach of setting them too low so that they continue to collect money from repeat offenders rather than actually pushing a behaviour change.

  7. Before anyone chimes in with cost-of-living excuses or it will harm some more than others. It’s completely voluntary, I drive and park regularly, have done so for 15+ years in Auckland thus far, never had a parking ticket of any kind. The only thing I would highlight, is perhaps even if increased those on the wealthier end of spectrum still won’t care much unless demerits or another such system is added, i.e. perhaps after X amount of offences for X number plate in a year the car is impounded for 28 days or such (since you can’t tell whom is driving generally if its parked with nobody in it).

    But yeah the fines are a joke, parking on the footpath for $40 is often cheaper than parking on the road in the city. I non-stop see tradies doing it, for no reason, how do they work on large buildings such as malls? Do they drive through the inside of them to be right out-side what they are working on? I don’t think so – I get sick of the excuse that they need their vehicle nearby to do anything, its absolute rubbish.

    Footpath parking should have its own category there in the higher end, its hard to fathom how they think yellow line parking is more of a danger than footpath parking. Then again special vehicle lane parking, which is more of an inconvenience to people than a safety thing, yet has one of the higher fines I think, $150 from memory? They should all be that high.

    Lets get on with it.

    1. Agree, tradies are terrible at it. For some reason all have to park as close to the site as possible and given 99% drive huge utes they drive all over the footpath and berm and ruin it. And this isn’t a generalisation – just go for a walk in any suburb.

      I thought trolleys and packouts were a thing? Also just pay for parking and charge it to your client.

      I’ve asked them to move so I can walk past with a pram and dog – normally it’s just a piss off mate rather than sorry will move.

      1. There’s got to be a degree of give and take for construction, especially given it’s a temporary situation. Maybe permits with clear conditions and expectations. Large sites usually have this already.

        1. We’re lacking a proper system for managing construction traffic, that ensures the most vulnerable people don’t have to “give” anything away in terms of their safety.

          It’s possible to do while still meeting the needs of construction; it will just require more road closures, more coning off of lanes for temporary active mode lanes, more properly marked temporary pedestrian crossings.

          This costs, of course, but why would parents let their children have independent mobility if at any stage construction activities are going to throw them into danger?

          Part of the solution is to recognise that construction activities are about developing the city and are necessary, whereas driving everywhere by car is a result of dysfunctional planning. When construction is happening, the risks of passing traffic are still risks imposed by drivers. If it’s proving hard to insist on proper safe practice, due to the costs of it and of enforcement, because the construction industry doesn’t want to pay, then these are costs that should be put onto drivers.

          Safety must be upheld at all times.

      2. My partner is a tradie and does a lot of work in the central Auckland area. There is no paid street parking in the area where he’s working, it’s all free but time restricted, which makes it very difficult to try and work in those areas! There’s no way to park and on-charge to the customer. A lot of trades refuse to take jobs in central Auckland because of a lack of parks. You can’t park in a parking building and take a massive number of power tools, supplies, and planks of wood up and down the street. Theft from trades vehicles is rampant so most prefer to keep an eye on their vehicles if possible.

        1. He really needs to invest in a trolley or cargo bike setup by the sounds for central city work. This is what is happening overseas.

        2. I wonder how they do it in those huge cities overseas? Don’t recall in London seeing utes covering all the footpaths – used to see tradies on the Tube with toolbags and stuff actually.

    2. The $150 fine is for driving in a special vehicle lane. The fine for parking in one is only $60. I can’t think of a more obvious example of the stupidity of current fines than that.

      Using a bus lane as a turning bay for 10 seconds carries 2.5x the fine of blocking for half an hour it with your private property and walking away.

      1. Ah right, I thought that might have been the case. But yeah, pretty ridiculous that completely blocking something to store something is 3x difference to moving down it which is less of an impact to services relying on it.

        The $40-60 fines are barely worth responding to, revenue-wise probably costs as much for the warden’s time and mileage.

  8. Of course the legislation needs to be changed to allow AT to recover these costs. However, AT could be running a much more cost-effective parking management approach, even with the fines they can charge.

    If AT ticketed illegally parked cars proactively in a cost-effective area-by-area programme, and towed the most egregiously parked ones, then drivers would start to expect “anywhere, anytime” enforcement. This would have a huge deterrence effect.

    Instead, probably as a pathetic reaction to claims of revenue gathering or of sob stories about illegal parkers, AT have a policy of only responding to complaints (except for in the city centre and a few specific areas). They can provide no analysis or evidence supporting the use of such a policy.

    Looking at the towage fees of individual cases is irrelevant when ticketing and towing are two tools in the same toolbox and responding only to callouts hikes the cost per ticket immensely.

  9. Surely just have AT bring it in-house as part of street sweeping?

    Vehicles can be disposed of by auction daily.

    Everyone loves a bargain.

    1. SOLUTION? AT brings car removal/towing in house. It leases 150 tow trucks and staffs them with a driver and a parking officer. The trucks roam around the known trouble spots and clear-ways, in packs with their lights flashing. They then clear the entire clearway in one sweep. The cars are removed to WIRI where they are stored and impounded for 14 days. Owners must rock up and pay the fine, the towage and the storage fees at the end of the 14 days. Cars that have no rego, no WOF and that are not collected with 14 days are seized and go to an auction. The proceeds go back to AT to fund the operation.

  10. Parking tickets (and especially towing) should at the very least be higher than fare evasion, or other transit-related fees.

  11. “In a typical month, AT tows about 1200 vehicles from clearways and bus lanes on the roads and council-owned facilities like parking buildings and parks.“
    That sounds to me like the majority are overstayers.

  12. Who knew you cant park within 6m of an intersection. Apparently no one, at least based on the cafe visitors who park ON the intersection to our street every day!

  13. 1200*99*12= 1.424 million

    1200*53.60*12 – 772 thousand

    Towing company: guess what! I went back and talked to my manager we can do you a fixed deal for 3 million a year!

    AT Drone: Wow, a farebox recovery ratio of almost exactly 26%, right where we expect to be, where do I sign!

  14. I agree with the need to increase the charges but the numbers do not add up.

    The article say 1,200 cars towed by AT per month so 14,400 per annum.

    If this costs $15million then that means $1,000 per car.

    If AT lose around $50 on each car towed (diff between what they pay the tow company and what they pass on to the customer) then the leakage is $770,000 per year not $15m.

  15. Everyday I bike home from work along a peak hour bus lane on Lincoln road in Christchurch. It’s about 650m long and its highly unusual to see it completely clear. Mon-Thu there are usually a couple of vehicles parked in it, but on Friday when people are getting takeaways or visiting the bars along there you see more parked cars. One evening I counted 28 cars parked in the bus lane. Most days there is a tow truck doing laps picking up cars, but one truck can’t keep up.

    People don’t care, busses are for poor people and bikes are for losers and by buying a car they have also bought the right to leave it wherever they want. If you want to stop people parking somewhere you have to physically separate it from the road, otherwise its just overflow parking.

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