Sunday, March 20, 2011

In New Zealand, disabled fundraiser battles parking services for fining him when he parked in an accessible lot

From the New Zealand Herald:

Mark Grantham (pictured) normally goes in to bat for those he considers less fortunate than himself.

Despite being largely immobilised with life-long cerebral palsy, the Auckland man has over 18 years sold more than 20,000 chocolate bars from his motorised wheelchair to support impoverished children in Africa and India under World Vision's global sponsorship scheme.

He can often be seen plying his trade in Broadway, Newmarket, and has made trips with teams of care-givers to Tanzania and Mumbai to visit his five sponsored children.

But now he is battling in his own defence against the Auckland Transport bureaucracy, after getting a $40 ticket for having his van parked in a zone outside Eden Park reserved for disabled people.

The keen sports fan was pleased to see New Zealand beat Pakistan by 57 runs at the one-day cricket international on February 5 after his assistant Sam Sautu parked the van in Cricket Ave.

He said Mr Sautu did so at the direction of Eden Park security staff. But when the pair returned to the van, their satisfaction over a good day of cricket turned to outrage when they found themselves among a group of disabled people who had been blitzed with tickets for parking there.

"It's bloody ridiculous because if I wasn't disabled I would be driving my own vehicle - I won't be paying it, for sure," he said.

Mr Grantham, 34, said his orange mobility parking permit was on clear display on the van's dashboard and disability stickers elsewhere on the vehicle should also have alerted Auckland Transport enforcement staff to its specialist nature.

His father, Chris Grantham, complained in a letter to the council-controlled organisation that the ticket was outrageously insensitive and had been issued without just cause. "His disability is immobilising and disadvantaging enough without your over-zealous and apparently totally incompetent officer causing additional grief," he wrote.

But his demands for the ticket to be withdrawn immediately, for action to be taken against whoever issued it and for his son to receive an apology were rejected in a letter from the agency last week.

An infringement adjudicator wrote that careful consideration had been given to the case, but the only way Mark could be let off paying the fine would be if he could prove his van had broken down or been stolen, or that he had suffered a medical emergency.

The letter gave him until early next month to either do that, pay up, or send a notice of his intention to contest the fine in court.

Otherwise, the infringement notice would be given to the court for collection purposes, for which he would incur extra costs.

An Eden Park spokesman said security staff had no jurisdiction over street parking outside the stadium.

The Herald was unable to obtain comments from Auckland Transport in time for publication.