Taxi driver stunned at fine after parking in mobility spot without permit to help amputee customer

If there's one truly unforgiveable parking sin, it’s taking the spot with the wheelchair sign when you're not entitled to it.

But what if you're just trying to help someone who truly needs it?

Brian Stewart thought he was doing the right thing when he stopped his taxi van on a Mobility park right outside the Lower Hutt City Council.

"I was doing something good to try and support the customer," Brian told Fair Go.

Brian's customer was in a wheelchair - an amputee and a regular passenger in Brian's specially-modified, wheelchair-friendly taxi van.

Brian says he stopped, then went the extra mile to help the gentleman inside and waited a few minutes to see he was OK.

For his troubles, Brian returned to find a $150 fine issued by the Hutt City Council for using the park without the required mobility permit.

Brian challenged the fine but the Council would not relent.

A spokesperson told Fair Go the Council does have powers of discretion with any parking infringement, but: "In respect of parking on a mobility park without a permit, we don't consider a warning.

"We are acting to protect the rights of people in our community who have a permit and can't use a space while it's occupied by someone without a permit."

The statement upset Brian. As a taxi driver with over 33 years at the wheel, he said this was a first and he had used mobility parks in the past as they were often the best place to safely let off customers in wheelchairs.

"If I had an idea that I was going to get a ticket and I was breaking the law, I wouldn't have parked there, I just wouldn't have had a second thought. I wouldn't have done it," Brian told Fair Go.

CCS Disability Action runs the nationwide Mobility Parking Permit scheme and said they have some sympathy for Brian, who they feel was doing the right thing in good conscience.

"It was quite unlucky for him to get an infringement notice," CCS Disability Action’s Raewyn Hailes told Fair Go.

Illegal parking in Mobility spaces is widespread, with 20-30 complaints a day from the Auckland region via an app called Access Aware, which lets people dob in violators and have that passed in real-time to parking wardens, Ms Hailes told Fair Go.

"In most cases councils, I think, are very generous in their policing of mobility car parks. They are reluctant to issue infringements," Ms Hailes said.

CCS's advice to taxi drivers is to ask disabled passengers to obtain permits for themselves, even if they aren't driving themselves, which can then be displayed in any vehicle that needs to get them around.

Brian hopes with a bit of goodwill, CCS might grant the taxi company mobility permits for wheelchair-friendly vehicles.

"I'm not infirm. I don't need one of those cards personally, but for the taxi it’d be great to have one now that I know,” Brian said.

He also felt encouraged by Fair Go's interest and pressed on, taking the option of a court hearing, where a JP ordered no fine be imposed on him.

It's a good outcome and a reminder to us all to respect mobility parks and leave them for those who need them.