Opinion: Paying for parking in a public car park is fair and reasonable. Why do people feel otherwise?

  • 14/05/2021
Opinion: Paying for parking in a public car park is fair and reasonable. Why do people feel otherwise?
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons / Holaceplztach

By Ryan Orchard, CEO of Wilson Parking New Zealand

OPINION: Having worked for Wilson Parking for over a decade, I am fully aware of our society’s feeling towards paying for parking: everyone loves to hate it. So much so, that many people feel entitled to park in our car parks without paying anything for it.

I feel silly having to write this, but we are a business that sells parking. This makes us no different from any other business that is selling a product or service. 

For those who are unfamiliar with our business model, think of us as a wholesaler of sorts. We lease parking spaces from property owners and we on sell them to our customers.

Wilson Parking is an option that a consumer chooses – just as it is a choice to pull up to a specific petrol station or the drive-through of a favourite fast-food restaurant. We are not forcing anyone to use our parking sites and there are plenty of alternate options. 

Our customers value their time and choose to park in our sites because they’re convenient and our parking sites help them get closer to their destination. As a part of this arrangement, there are terms and conditions that need to be respected, which we always prominently display on signage in every car park.  

Despite it being common knowledge that most private parking sites require payment, many consumers like to try their luck to see if they can get away with not paying. 

If a customer was in a self-check-out line at the local supermarket, but realised they were running late to football practice, they would expect a negative consequence if they ran out of the store with a bag full of unpaid groceries.

Yet some cry foul when faced with a $65 breach notice, even after admitting they've done the wrong thing by not paying for a ticket in the first place.

We know that no one enjoys receiving a breach notice. Our defence of this is simple: we issue breach notices because we believe they are the fairest option and have the lowest impact on our customers.

The facts are, in lieu of a breach notice, there are other consequences customers could experience. 

Wilson Parking does not use wheel-clamping at any of its parking sites, but this is an option that is available to us. New legislation came into effect in 2020 that sets the maximum fee that operators can charge at $100 (including GST). 

It’s also entirely legal for us to tow unauthorised vehicles. The average cost of towing is around $300, at the owner’s expense. But often it’s the inconvenience of having to then retrieve the vehicle from an impound lot and the risk of damage to the vehicle that causes the most stress. Knowing this, we stopped towing vehicles about 15 year ago in favour of issuing breach notices.   

Breach notices are not unique to parking. If you’ve ever tried to evade your fare on public transport, you may face a $150 penalty.

So, what makes up a $65 ticket? We are not trying to be mysterious and certainly do not condone any “vulture-like” behaviour. 

Our statement is still true: the $65 breach notice fee covers the costs of enforcing our terms and conditions for parking. Most of this fee is labour costs, which has increased significantly in recent years. Someone is checking that people are paying for parking. Someone is recording the notice and placing that ”dreaded slip of waxy paper” on the windshield. Someone is processing the notice in an office and keeping records. Unfortunately, a lot of people choose not to pay, which means we issue a lot of notices when all we want is for everyone to pay for their parking.

The $65 breach notice fee is fairly standard across the private parking industry in New Zealand and is not unique to Wilson Parking. There are also several court cases that set the precedent of this being a fair and reasonable amount for the fee. 

We have invested millions of dollars locally supporting the development of the Parkmate app, which is easy to use and virtually eliminates the risk of receiving a breach notice. But it isn’t going to be of assistance if an individual makes the conscious decision not to pay for parking. 

We work hard to listen, we work hard to keep prices affordable and I hope I can make one thing clear: we do not want to issue breach notices – we simply want everyone to pay for the services they use when parking in our car parks.