Woman furious to find car moved by contractor

An angry Jill Dalwood returned yesterday to where she had parked her car on Wednesday in Smith St...
An angry Jill Dalwood returned yesterday to where she had parked her car on Wednesday in Smith St, Dunedin, but later found it had been moved up the road. Photo by Linda Robertson.

When Jill Dalwood parked her pride and joy - a 2008 Ford Focus - in Smith St, Dunedin, before heading to work on Wednesday morning, the last thing she expected to find when she returned was her car on the opposite side of the street.

The Dunedin woman is furious Fulton Hogan had her car and five other vehicles moved because they wanted to reseal the road. She says her car was dented in the process.

"I got back and thought: Where the hell is my car?" Mrs Dalwood said.

"I feel like my property has been invaded. It all seems very absurd and irregular to me. It's just not the done thing."

Dunedin City Council roading maintenance engineer Peter Standring said it was "totally unacceptable" and a "please explain" letter had been sent to Fulton Hogan.

"They know the process. There's the notification and the no-parking cones - that process wasn't followed through."

There were times, usually in emergencies, when cars could be moved without the owner's permission, but this scenario was not one of them, he said.

Fulton Hogan deputy regional manager Grant Sime apologised, and said the company was prepared to repair any damage to Mrs Dalwood's car "if it was caused by us".

He said the company did a letter drop to residents in the area on Monday, warning them road work would be carried out on Wednesday, but it failed to put out cones the night before to prevent vehicles parking in the street.

Non-residents would not have known road work was scheduled in the area that day, he said.

"We did make a mistake in this case."

By 2pm, Mrs Dalwood's car and five others were obstructing the work of the Fulton Hogan crew, and after door-knocking in the area failed to locate the owners, Reilly's Towage and Salvage was called in to move the vehicles, Mr Sime said.

Once the work was completed, the cars were to have been returned to their original parks.

In most cases, the owners would not know their vehicle had been moved.

Mr Sime was aware it was against the law to move vehicles if the owners were not informed.

"The mistake in this situation was that the no-parking cones were not established early enough and the decision was made to still proceed with this work in the hope that the owners of the cars would return during the course of the day.

"The decision was made by the crew who were keen to finish their work and move on to the next site. It's not common practice, and it won't happen again.

"We're not into breaking the law," Mr Sime said.

Dunedin police road policing manager Senior Sergeant Phil McDouall said if a vehicle was parked over a fire hydrant or in a dangerous place, it could legally be moved by police or the fire service.

This was not one of those situations, he said.

"There could be some criminal liability there. Moving a car could be construed as unlawful interference with a motor vehicle."


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