22 Aug 2018

Cracking down on 'cowboy' clampers

8:24 pm on 22 August 2018

The government plans to take stricter measures against wheel clamping after years of outcry over the outrageous fines that come with them.

Car wheel blocked by wheel lock because illegal parking violation

Photo: 123RF

Parking enforcement services have until now been able to charge what they want to remove clamps from cars parked on private property with some people charged as high as $700.

The government will cap the fee for wheel clamping at $100 to stop wheel clampers charging excessive fees and preying on motorists.

In March, Lyndee Wellington and her partner were clamped after parking in an unmarked park opposite the Waitakere library for five minutes.

"The guy threatened us, if we didn't give over $200 then he was going to puncture my tires and pretty much damage my car just because he was demanding money that we didn't have."

Things turned heated, almost violent, but the police told her they were unable to help and eventually, after her father joined them, they were able to negotiate for the clamp to come off.

"He even asked my dad for his bank details and my dad was like, 'You're not getting my bank details, we're not a family of finances.' "

However, before they went the man told her he would be sending her a $200 fine in the mail.

"They obviously have my car details along with a lot of car details. That's why I get scared in regards to being out in public, especially in my car, because I don't want them to come back.

"It's scary knowing that there's people out there that are demanding money because we're all struggling here in New Zealand.

Some motorists said a particularly bad spot was a carpark in Henderson, on Sel Peacock Drive.

Speaking there today, the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Kris Faafoi said the government would change the law and put a cap on how much people could be charged.

Civil Defence Minister Kris Faafoi

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

"We had looked at many options, signage, a full ban, but we wanted to make sure we had a balance of making sure smaller, medium-sized businesses still had the opportunity to police their carparks but also making sure we're cracking down on the cowboy behaviour we're seeing."

Transport Minister Phil Twyford said the law change would also hold clampers to account.

"In the past police haven't been able to get involved because it's been a civil matter but what this legislation will do is specifically task the police with enforcement.

"Some of these people are real predators. I've no patience with them whatsoever and it's long-passed time that we step in and regulate."

Auckland musician Sasha Witten-Hannah also fell victim to clamping outside the Waitakere library while giving a free concert for NZ Music Month in 2016.

He turned his experience into a song.

"It's daylight robbery. I felt utterly violated."

He said while the government's law change was welcomed, it did not go far enough.

AA spokesperson Mark Stockdale, agreed, and said clamping was one of the most commonly complained about things from its members.

"While the AA would prefer wheel clamping to be banned, like it is in the UK, this is a good first step and will help reduce the worst excesses of wheel clamping.

"However, $100 is still disproportionate for the offence and it still doesn't solve the problem of denying motorists the opportunity to dispute a wheel clamp penalty without paying on the spot."