Councillor Tony Christiansen says parking buildings provide a sanctuary for illegal vehicles. Joel Ford

Councillor Tony Christiansen says parking buildings provide a sanctuary for illegal vehicles. Joel Ford

Tauranga's downtown carpark buildings have become a sanctuary for motorists driving unwarranted and unregistered cars, a city councillor has claimed.

Tony Christiansen raised the politically-sensitive issue during a debate this week on financial projections for the council's parking operation.

Cr Christiansen said the reason parking wardens checked for warrants of fitness and registrations was safety. He accused the council of providing a sanctuary for people who were not law-abiding and said it contradicted the WOF and registration checks made on vehicles parked on the street.

Cr Christiansen said afterwards he did not get a clear answer to an issue that was all about parity. He linked it to the bigger parity issue of the council charging for parking in the downtown when it was free at the Greerton and Mount Maunganui shopping centres.

"It is about a fair deal for everybody."

Council transportation operations manager Martin Parkes told the Bay of Plenty Times checking warrants and regos was not the key function of parking wardens. The main reason for having wardens was to create turnover of carparks on the street by making sure that motorists paid, and they were not overstaying the time they paid for.

Directing the six wardens into the two parking buildings would divert them away from their core business. There had been no direction from this council or previous councils for this to happen, he said.

Monday's meeting heard that the downtown's pay and display parking machines that cost $1,250,000 in 2007 now needed $300,000 upgrades to make them legally compliant and able to take all the new computer chip credit cards.

Mr Parkes said afterwards the $300,000 did not mean the council's parking account would dip into deficit next year.

Surpluses built up in the parking account had reached a level where they would be able to reduce debt in the account by $1 million.

Debt remaining on the original $10 million loans for the parking buildings would be $3.9 million by the June 30 and he expected the loans to be paid off in about five years.

The $1.36 million income expected from fines this year included court recoveries of $800,000 from people who had not paid their fines on time. This was $160,000 more than the council's parking enforcement costs of $1.2 million.

Mr Parkes expected to see a repeat of last year's pattern in which the tickets issued for expired warrants and registrations would make up about 80 per cent of the tickets issued by wardens.

Added to this, fines income was the big chunk of revenue from on-street parking and parking building fees.

The parking account had continued to run at a surplus despite revenue taking a hit from the introduction of the two-month grace period for expired warrants and regos.

It meant anyone operating an unwarranted or unregistered vehicle for up to two months escaped paying the $200 fine if they made their car legal within 14 days.