The $114 Auckland Council Takeaway


One Aucklander is fuming at the Auckland City Council for costing him at least $114 for a takeaway coffee at the weekend.

It’s more proof – if we needed it – that the council’s proposed inner city night time parking meter changes are just another sham tactic to boost the council revenues, to hell with encouraging people to spend money on food and entertainment.

I came across disgruntled Sandringham Rd café customers at lunchtime yesterday who discovered their cars had been towed away in one speedy military style swoop while they were eating brunch or ordering coffee. The reason was of a towaway zone imposed near Eden Park because of a Sunday afternoon game.

CARS GONE but no signs. Only notice is the longtime red "Eden Park under development"

CARS GONE but no signs. Only notice is the longtime red one about Eden Park under development

The motorists bitterly complained that when they parked there after 10am that morning there were absolutely no signs on lamp posts warning them not to park there – and to be frank, I couldn’t see any in the relevant area when I walked past (see photo).

There was a warning sign much further down near Eden Park and the Kingsland railway station area. One protesting motorist said he had been told notification had been made in the fine print in the weekly council newsletter City Scene, which is hardly compulsory reading when you’re deciding to go out for brunch on a Sunday.

In all, about 12 cars from café residents got towed. At $110 each that’s not a bad five minutes worth for the council.

Those people also had the stress of finding their car gone, and had to arrange for taxis to get them to the city to claim their vehicle or find other ways to get there.

No-one should be immune from clearly defined towaway spaces but if the council really is just putting up special event warning notices a short time before the restrictions come into effect, this is scandalous. It should have plastered the area from first light and if any staff had any tiny bit of morality, they would have popped their head into the obviously busy café and given customers five minutes to move their car, instead of getting sick pleasure from the faces of customers who treked out to find their car missing.

pay-jpg  074Seeing that anger and bewilderment on people’s faces just makes me determined that we must fight these latest council plans to charge people at night in city parking meters. They’ve already experimented at the viaduct with such new hourly restrictions at night (left) so I wouldn’t be surprised if they haven’t already stockpiled signs ready to put up despite the “consultation” process about the changes.

Or maybe their cruel arrogance is such they won’t bother with signs and just come and police people and tell those complaining they should have read the public notice in City Scene.

(In answer to the query clarifying the location: The cars towed were between Ethel St and Shaw street going towards Eden Park opposite about 122 sandringham)

UPDATE: The council has now finally admitted there were no signs (follow thread of comments below)


Part II Council learns lessons from this story

Part III Council Takes no chances it will happen again




  1. Parlsey72 says:

    Also, what impact will this have on the cafe? Will any of those customers risk going there again? It might have a permanent affect on business in the area if people think there’s a risk of towing whenever special events are on.

  2. Never mind the charges, it’s the inconvenience. I work hard all week and on the weekend I want to go out for a relaxing coffee and brunch, or go out for dinner.

    Where’s the relaxation if I have to keep trotting out to the car to feed the meter?

    I can see this hitting cafes hard

  3. Jon C says:

    Good point. The cafe mentioned that this has happened before recently and it will scare people away. Who would think Sandringham rd was close don a Sunday afternoon and with no warning when people park at 10am and see no signs?

  4. Christopher Dempsey says:


    I’ve asked Council officers to investigate this matter.

    It’s my understanding that when games are on, Eden Park organises parking restrictions around the site (which would include around the Okra cafe site), including any signage, which as you have observed, was absent.

    Christopher Dempsey
    Chair, Eden Albert Community Board

  5. Christopher Dempsey says:

    This is being investigated. Can someone confirm that the cafe is indeed Okra?


  6. Mr N says:

    Yes it was and I had my car towed away and had to pay yesterday. There were no signs when i struggled to find a car parking space at 1030am so either those people were also all blind or the council didnt warn us. And there was no sign when i came out and find the car gone. It was the space you photographed by the way.

  7. Christopher Dempsey says:

    This is the response from Council officers.

    “With any game day at Eden Park, restrictions and clearways are a very
    regular occurrence.

    Advisory signage is placed 24hrs in advance and my team completes signage checks to provide scripted proof that advisory signage was in place and that on the day of the event restriction a further signage
    check is made to ensure signage is in place. Signage is placed at the entry and exit point of any street and also at 50mtr intervals.

    As Eden Park and its surrounding areas have been managed through many consistent years of event traffic management, public knowledge
    surrounding event days as well as the significant amount of notification
    pre-event, it is surprising that people will still chance parking inappropriately.

    We operate within clearly defined boundaries regarding the traffic management practices and have many checks in place surrounding signage.”

    Please let me know if you have any further questions.


  8. Jon C says:

    Thanks for following this through Christopher -appreciate it.

    Pity the council officers are not as responsible a local body person as you are.

    This response quite frankly confirms their appalling and unacceptable high and mighty arrogance…” public knowledge
    surrounding event days as well as the significant amount of notification pre-event, it is surprising that people will still chance parking inappropriately.”

    Naughty naughty public. Yes the silly dumb citizens should have read City Scene the week before or known there is a rugby match at Eden Park that Sunday. Thankfully they didn’t so we made a killing laughing all the way to the bank.
    Signs at either end of the event are meaningless. If you park your car you expect a sign in that stretch of the road not down at the Kingsland Railway station several blocks away.

    This confirms everything we wondered about a heartless greedy council staff and management.
    Shame on you Auckland City.

  9. Bill Bennett says:

    Am I the only person to be reminded of The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy at this point?

  10. Parlsey72 says:

    “Beware of the leopard”.
    Jon C: For those who don’t know the reference from HG here it is: “But Mr Dent, the plans have been available in the local planning office for the last nine months.”

    “Oh yes, well as soon as I heard I went straight round to see them, yesterday afternoon. You hadn’t exactly gone out of your way to call attention to them, had you? I mean, like actually telling anybody or anything.”

    “But the plans were on display …”

    “On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”

    “That’s the display department.”

    “With a flashlight.”

    “Ah, well the lights had probably gone.”

    “So had the stairs.”

    “But look, you found the notice didn’t you?”

    “Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’

  11. Jon C says:

    Bill and Parlsey72 - thanks for the laughs. I needed it after writing that!

  12. Frustrated says:

    Sadly the change to the super council will just make these officials think they have even more power to control the world.
    There is something sick about the megalomaniac approach of these staff.
    Why couldn’t they have popped into the cafe. Of course we know.
    What a laugh it must be . Whip down to Eden park, tow all the cars away and stick a sign a long distance apart to cover our legal arse.
    I too have seen the look on their face when people come out and find the car gone.
    Sick people.
    And it will be more of the same once they get those new night parking restrictions in place.

  13. Sarah says:

    The council reply is indeed heartless.

    They sound like some old fashioned queen sitting on her throne telling the plebs off.

    The council obviously stuffed up and did a once over lightly job on the day, turning up late and then just putting upa few signs and disappearing with the cars in tow.

    I look forward to the mayor taking some responsibility for this and admitting he is going to give the council staff a flea in their ear instead of ticking the public off.

    Remember Banksy the council election is only a year away. Show some heart.

  14. Pukekohe Lad says:

    I laugh every time I see that TV ad for heart of the city.
    Auckland doesnt have a heart and the Auckland council are the most mean heartless people I have come across.
    Every tried to argue when your car is about to be towed away?
    I know they have a tough job. But this isnt about parking wardens.
    This is a policy from the top.
    Screw the people, make as much money as we can.
    It’s confirmed in that council BS above

  15. Ex AGS says:

    In a week when Auckland Grammar school students (my old school) were caught acting shamefully, i am reluctant to use the word fascist but I can’t think of a more appropriate word. Sorry.

  16. Adam says:

    If anyone knows their email, you must send this to the massive Auckland City PR and marketing department (I am sure I recall reading Brian Rudman mention it was about 50 strong) and tell them their arrogant distant response is NOT how you respond in an interactive internet age.

  17. Mr N says:

    As one of the people towed away (great blog by the way)I shake my head, $110 poorer and will never ever park in Auckland City places for entertainment or cafe lunches again. St Lukes is just as handy. Someone mentioned the heart of the city campaign. If they want our custom, lets see them stop the nightly car parking charges coming in. Otherwise watch the custom fall.

  18. RichardB says:

    I am in favour of the new super council becaue we need fresh blood to stop this kind of arrogance and what amounts to basic thieving by the council to raise revenue.

    But chances are the same people will be making the same decisions at council level that promote this kind of thing and once they control the whole city , it will be scary at how much power they wield.

  19. Mr N says:

    The 50m sign thing is NOT true.
    There was no sign between Ocra and Shaw St and in fact beyond Shaw St until you got closer to Kingsland railway.
    I think the poster is on to something in saying it was probably a hired outside company who did a slack job - roared by at 12, banged in a couple of signs, towed everyone away after ticketing them in one quick swoop and went “home” which means the council got ripped off as well as us.
    I paid the ticket but now am going to consider legal options after the council response.

  20. Christopher Dempsey says:

    Hello all,

    Thank-you for your comments, they are appreciated.

    I’ve spoken to Council officer concerned - he is providing me with the audit check of signage. Once I have this I’ll try and make it available to the public on this site.

    The basic process is that signage is put up 24 hours to the event (Eden Park game, but also ANY special event - Round the Bays, local kindergarten fund-raising trolley derby etc).

    Because we have people that enjoy ripping signs down there is an audit check done prior to the event (in the morning say) to check signs.

    This is written down in an audit log (presumably for just these sorts of situations!).

    Sometimes parking officers exercise discretion to do a courtesy tow - to a place around the corner - or the nearest legal park.


  21. PB says:

    I work in corporate PR and specialise in damage management control and this post was referred to me as it’s a A1 example on how not to treat customers.
    Sadly, it’s what I would expect from the council, which is known to have an arrogant “we know best so go away” attitude because they’re not accountable to their customers who have to pay rates regardless.
    There was clearly a stuff up and / or at least a breakdown in normal customer relations in which the council believe that by stating there is a towaway zone for a special event, it’s up to people to somehow discover the information and the fact they couldn’t even pop into the cafe and alert the patrons is a classic example of, as someone here suggested, immoral business practice.
    This will be a good test to see if the council top PR and communication management have the balls to admit it’s a mistake, apologise and agree to compensation.
    If not the council needs to fire their top communication people. Seriously.
    I will be using this communication in my seminars and consultancies on the worst cases of PR in NZ so thanks for posting it.
    Having said that, congratulations for Mr Dempsey for being the only one in the council loop with high integrity. You, sir, did very well.

  22. Christopher Dempsey says:

    Hello All

    Thank you for your kind praise PB - it’s just my job really.

    I have received the following from Council;

    “As promised here are the stats for the Eden Park game 18/10/09.

    Advisory signage placed 24hrs in advance (17/10/09)
    First signage check 11.45am, 17/10/09
    Second signage check 3.30pm, 17/10/09 completed by Officer 070

    Event day signage check (18/10/09)
    Signage check 7.15am
    Event time of operation 11.00am till 4.30pm

    On all signage checks, signage was 100% compliant.”

    So the mystery deepens; signs were there at 7.15am but between then and mid-morning/lunchtime, the signs disappeared, and presumably people were towed as a result.

    I’ll ask officers to check signs more frequently.


  23. Agree with Bill. This episode sounds very much like HGttG.

    Best to talk to a nearby cafe….or drive to somewhere you know there are no problems.

  24. JX says:

    C’mon guys give them a break - these guys are just getting in some practice as a super council -that is - super arrogance paired with super incompetence. Just super!

  25. Blues Supporter says:

    Groan. This is a very bad sign of what we are in for with the RWC. Imagine tourists coming to Auckland and falling for this council trap.
    Of course they wont be allowed near Eden park but imagine if this happened.
    Lets get this right: the council denies they didnt put up signs, charge people $110, make them pay, spoil their weekend, ruin the cafe’s business, treat them like plebs telling them they should have read the notice in some newsletter the council delivers with junk mail once a week and finally, only because Jon writes it on his blog, we find they didnt put up the signs.
    Of course it will still someone elses fault.
    Are they seriously saying someone has gone around and somehow taken all the signs down!

  26. Jon C says:

    Now the council has finally admitted there were no signs at the time, a lesson is when such things happen: As I do, take lots of photos and videos with your phone. You never know when they come in handy!

  27. Timothy says:

    So the council is now saying that in broad daylight, on a busy main arterial route, opposite Eden Park where a game was going to be held that afternoon, near the Kingsland railway station, just around the corner from Kingsland, alongside a busy Mobil service station where theres foot traffic and cars going in and out to purchase, someone climbed up the lamp posts and stole all the signs.
    What an amazingly bold thief.

  28. Christopher Dempsey says:

    Clarification all - it wasn’t Council suggesting that someone stole the signs - it was myself.

    I am trying to understand why there is a large gap - there is a group of unrelated people who say that there were no signs, yet I have Council saying that there was!

    One hypothesis is that they were stolen. Another one is that they were never put up. I honestly have no idea at all why they weren’t there.

    I have had a look at City Scene and the only notice I can find is this one:

    “Cricket Avenue (between Walters Road and Reimers Avenue) and Raleigh Street (between Kowhai Street and Cricket Avenue), Mt Eden, between 12.15pm and 5pm on Sunday, 18 October for the Auckland vs Counties Manukau match at Eden Park. Walters Road (between Sandringham Road and Kowhai Street) may also be closed for safety purposes at the same time. This closure applies to all except authorised and emergency vehicles.”

    This refers to complete road closures, not parking restrictions. Parking restrictions need signage, which is different from road closure.

    One way or another we will get to the bottom of this.

    Christopher Dempsey
    Chair, Eden Albert Community Board

  29. Harry says:

    Signs at every 50m is not true from my own experience.

    I regularly work at Eden Park on event days, therefore start work up to 7 hours before the event starts. A number of my colleagues have been towed on numerous occassions over the past few years where no signage was present when they started work.

    This has been happening for a few years now. Like some other posters have indicated, I now regularly take video footage on my phone whenever I park around Eden Park.

    Luckily to date I have not been towed, but everytime I work at Eden Park I keep wondering if my car will be there when I finish work or will it be towed.

  30. Random says:

    Nothing new with things like this happening on Sandringham Rd when there’s a game on, try living there (one of my mates does).

    One weekend we were going to the game and met at my mates place and came out to see the council towing away all the cars outside my mates flat. It had never been a no parking area for the rest of the season and the councils definition of notification of the extension was a notice in some bit of the paper no one reads and a pitiful small sign 20 metres down the road in one direction and no sign in sight in the other direction (presumably it was there but stolen!). Most of the cars outside were my mates flatmates cars who had gone away for the weekend and they had not received any letter or anything in the mail advising them of the change.

    The Council and Eden Park need to get their act together because they seem to do an awesome job of pissing off residents and loyal sports fans alike.

  31. Peter says:

    I think that the actions of the company may well be illegal and that the people towed away should be reimbursed. There are two reasons for this. A notice on the City Scene cannot be used as adequate notice as it implies that everyone in New Zealand has access to the publication and has read it. For example, I live in Hamilton but regularly enjoy a coffee or a meal in Auckland. The absence of signs is the other reason. Surely it would have been possible to lock the signs so that they could not be stolen. I do not believe that there is any right of a company to tow away anyone without warning signs being clearly visible.

  32. Harry says:

    I think Auckland City should take a leaf our of Christchurch City councils book.

    I also work at AMI Stadium. There, permanent signs are in place on the streets around the stadium. The signs are mounted on fixed poles with one on each side of every driveway. The signs are hinged in the middle so they fold them down when required and they all seemed to be secured with a padlock when folded up.

  33. ung says:

    thanks you for this blog. We are overseas people who was going to hire cars to go round Aukland, now we can chnage our plan and not to do that.

  34. Jon C says:

    That’s sad Ung. Don’t be put off. Auckland’s still a great place to get around. Just be careful where you park! Or try a train or bus if it is going where you want to go.

  35. ung says:

    thank you, we have raed your story on trains and will try that and taxis

  36. Another idea. Since people park on those streets to eat in the cafe, why doesn’t the council ask the cafe to put a notice up on their door advising customers where they should not be parking. It would be in the cafe’s interest to do this as well.


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