In-house parking call after outcry

There are calls for the Dunedin City Council to revert to in-house management of parking operations in Moray Pl and at Forsyth Barr Stadium following a public outcry over Wilson Parking's methods.

The call came from Cr David Benson-Pope on Friday, even as council staff signalled a review of parking arrangements across the city was already under way.

That followed a public outcry over Wilson Parking's method of issuing $65 fines - called ''breach notices'' by the company - for motorists who overstayed on pay-and-display parks it managed.

Cr Benson-Pope told the Otago Daily Times he and some other councillors ''haven't got much time'' for Wilson Parking, and questioned the merits of using it to run council-owned parking facilities.

That included at Forsyth Barr Stadium and the council's parking building in upper Moray Pl, which should both ''absolutely'' revert to in-house council management, he said.

''I don't think there's too much logic in letting someone else clip the ticket for city properties.

''I think any council-owned property is best managed by council,'' he said.

The comments by Cr Benson-Pope, chairman of the council's planning and regulatory committee, came after Mayor Dave Cull on Thursday labelled the company's fines ''exorbitant and unreasonable''.

Council chief executive Sue Bidrose also confirmed yesterday a review of existing parking arrangements was already under way and due to be completed in the middle of this year.

It was launched late last year, following discussions about existing parking arrangements, and was scrutinising the merits of in-house management and the use of contractors such as Wilson Parking, she said.

The council had expanded its use of Wilson Parking by contracting the company to run the Moray Pl building in 2011.

The following year, it asked Wilson Parking to run the council's new car park on vacant land in Parry St, and Dunedin Venues Management Ltd then contracted the company to manage the stadium's car park in 2013.

The deals generated additional revenue for the council and DVML, but Dr Bidrose said the council's new city property manager, Kevin Taylor, had ''different ideas''.

''That does have to be weighed up ... If we get a better return because there are high fines, then you've got to ask yourself whether that's what ratepayers want.''

As a result, the Parry St car park would come under direct council management this weekend, and other arrangements were being scrutinised, she said.

DVML's contract with Wilson Parking was up for renewal in December, but any change would be a decision for DVML chief executive Terry Davies, Dr Bidrose said.

Mr Davies could not be contacted Friday , and in a one-line statement would only say the contract would be reviewed at the end of the year.

Dr Bidrose said she had discussed public concerns about Wilson Parking with Mr Davies yesterday.

''He has had a discussion with us and, if he hasn't had one, I'm sure he will be having one with Wilson's ... He is weighing up all of those things in a way that I'm comfortable with.''

However, Wilson Parking's other council contract, for the Moray Pl building, was not up for renewal until November 2021, and changes were not being considered ''for that building'', council group chief financial officer Grant McKenzie said.

''If you want to get out of a contract, you can normally get out of one, but it normally costs.''

Cr Lee Vandervis also joined the debate Friday by questioning the council's original decision to lease the building to Wilson Parking in 2011.

At the time, the deal was said to be worth $450,000 a year to the council, compared with the $64,200 generated for the council from in-house management in 2010-11.

However, Cr Vandervis said the big difference in returns reflected the ''Citifleet management disadvantage''.

The building was overseen by Citipark, the council's parking division managed by former Citifleet team leader Brent Bachop.

Mr Bachop was at the centre of a $1.5 million vehicle fraud uncovered last year, but the Deloitte investigation had also questioned his actions at the Moray Pl parking building.

Deloitte found cheques worth $104,800, intended to replenish pay stations inside the Moray Pl building, had been cashed by Mr Bachop during 2010-11.

However, Deloitte could find no evidence the money had been used to refill the machines.

Dr Bidrose said any misappropriation could have affected returns from the Moray Pl building, but it was ''impossible'' to determine to what extent.

Despite that, questions were being asked about the council's inability to match Wilson's profits, she said.

''I struggle to understand why Wilson's were able to offer such a better return than we were able to offer ourselves. ... Those things are being looked at.''

Wilson Parking has declined to release details of revenue, including fines, from the company's Dunedin operations.

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