Council cancels free-parking fines after muddy meter message

A Marlborough couple wants the council to communicate better after a "misunderstanding" caused them and 20 others to be fined during a free parking scheme.

Rick and Trish Rawlings left their vehicle at Blenheim's Kinross St car park to go shopping on Monday, only to return 25 minutes later to a $40 ticket for "failing to pay the required parking fee".

The incident came a week after the Marlborough District Council announced it would roll out two hours of free parking in Blenheim and Picton from May 18 to June 30, in a bid to boost business as the region moved through Covid-19 alert levels.

A parking warden told the pair that drivers were fined if they had not put their vehicle registration into a parking machine, as the council was unable to tell if they had already "claimed" their two hours.

"We said to her, 'But where does it say that?' ... All the advertising we've seen for it says parking is free in Blenheim, not to put our registration into the parking machine," Rick Rawlings said.

Public notices in the Saturday Express, Marlborough Midweek and on the council's website did not state drivers needed to put their registration into a machine to claim the two hours free parking.

"We said, 'Obviously we don't want to pay this [fee]," Rawlings said.


"Our day started out very happy, as we haven't been outside our property in two weeks ... This stuffed the day though, absolutely.

"As a public body, the council departments need to communicate better with each other, and say what the real rules are to people."

A council spokesman said on Wednesday while drivers did need to "activate" a parking meter, the ticket was part of a larger "misunderstanding" by Armourguard, who provided the wardens.

Armourguard was told it would still cost $4 a day to park in 'all day' parking zones, located at Kinross St and Wynen St.

"Unfortunately, this was interpreted as ‘two hours free does not apply to anyone parking in the all day car parks’."

A total of 22 fines were issued "in error" on Monday. All fines were cancelled, the spokesperson said.

Rawlings said the council cancelled their infringement notice on Tuesday morning after they complained, but did not state why.

About 27 people had been fined for overstaying their free two hours since the start of the six-week initiative, bringing in a total of $1080.

The spokesman said parkers who wanted to stay for more than two hours needed to make a payment at a parking meter, or use the PayMyPark smartphone app after their free time had expired.

"People who are parking need to activate the meters by providing their number plate, even if they plan to park less than two hours."

Council property and community facilities manager Jamie Lyall said earlier this month residents would still be unable to park in 10-minute and 30-minute spots for two hours during the venture.

A report he headed said it would cost about $2500 to change the pay-by-plate parking times to include the two hours free, and about $2500 to change it back. This did not include the $300 needed to modify the council's Alfred St parking building times.