Council backs parking team after scene

The Queenstown Lakes District Council says its parking officers are ''unsung heroes'' who carry out a difficult but vital role.

The council's backing of its parking team follows the alleged assault of an officer in Brecon St on Thursday. Acting Sergeant Phil Hamlin, of Queenstown, said the situation became ''heated'' after a vehicle owner returned to his car to find the officer writing a ticket.

''The driver has gone to the parking warden and pushed him in the chest - given him a shove - and tried to pull the ticket book out of his hands so he could see what the parking warden was writing.''

The vehicle owner, a 38-year-old Queenstown man, drove from the scene but was arrested at home soon afterwards. He will appear in the Queenstown District Court on Monday on a charge of common assault.

Queenstown Lakes District Council regulatory manager Lee Webster said violence against parking officers was a ''rare occurrence'' in the district.

However, if a member of the public was violent, threatening or verbally abusive towards an officer, the council did not hesitate to go to the police.

The ''very professional'' officer, who had about six years' experience in the role, returned to work yesterday. Although uninjured, he was ''clearly shaken by what's taken place''.

Parking officers played a ''vital role'', particularly in the small but busy Queenstown CBD, Mr Webster said.

''They're unsung heroes - if they're doing their job well, people don't notice.

''If there were no parking officers, all of a sudden we'd have chaos and gridlock.''

The job was not just ''handing out tickets'', but also involved informing the public about parking rules so that enforcement was unnecessary.

The council normally employed four officers in Queenstown, but had a vacancy for one position at present. They received ongoing training in the law relating to their role as well as learning skills for interacting with the public, he said.

''When they are dealing with people they have to treat them with respect, be professional and non-judgemental.''

Senior Constable Chris Blackford, of Queenstown, said parking officers had the strong backing of the police, and anyone mistreating an officer ''could expect no leniency''.

''People do not understand that parking wardens have a very difficult job to do, and without them, this town would come to a standstill.''

In 2012, the Otago Daily Times reported that an Invercargill man was ordered to pay $4000 reparation and carry out 50 hours' community service after threatening a Queenstown parking officer in Marine Pde and throwing the officer's electronic ticketing machine into Lake Wakatipu.

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