Bay of Plenty Times

Bus lane bites back

Driv­ers cop­ping $150 fines for in­fringe­ments — and they are not thrilled

- Kiri Gille­spie New Zealand · Tauranga

Close to 600 mo­torists have been fined for il­le­gally us­ing one of Tau­ranga’s two bus lanes in the first three weeks since en­force­ment of the lane be­gan. In Septem­ber, Tau­ranga City Coun­cil warned it would be­gin fin­ing peo­ple us­ing the Hairini bus lane from Oc­to­ber 1.

The bus lane has been pop­u­lar with mo­torists us­ing it as a short­cut to es­cape con­gested traf­fic on Tur­ret Rd stem­ming from Wel­come Bay Rd and State High­way 29A.

In the pe­riod lead­ing up to Oc­to­ber 1, the coun­cil is­sued 409 warn­ing let­ters to mo­torists caught il­le­gally us­ing the bus lane. In to­tal, 579 fines were is­sued be­tween Oc­to­ber 1 and Oc­to­ber 19.

hauiti res­i­dent Dave Hig­gins is among the re­cip­i­ents and he’s not happy about it.

Hig­gins re­ceived three sep­a­rate fines of $150 each for us­ing the bus lane, a route he’s used most of his life to get into town.

“I’ll go to court be­fore I pay that,” he said.

Hig­gins said he was not aware of any warn­ing that the coun­cil was start­ing en­force­ment over the use of the lane, which he had been us­ing for years.

“I’ve been driv­ing down there ev­ery time I go to town, which is about once a week or so,” he said.

“I wouldn’t have driven down there if I had known.”

Hig­gins lives ru­rally in hauiti and pub­lic trans­port was not an op­tion for him. He said he was loath to use SH29A and­merge with Wel­come Bay Rd traf­fic on Tur­ret Rd, like most mo­torists.

“That just puts un­nec­es­sary pres­sure on the traf­fic lights and round­abouts.”

Hig­gins said he felt he should not have to pay, given the bus lane had been used by mo­torists for so long with­out any fines.

Coun­cil di­rec­tor of trans­port Bren­dan Bis­ley said although it was il­le­gal to drive in a bus lane un­der the Land Trans­port Act “sig­nif­i­cant ef­forts were still made to make sure peo­ple were aware of the rules”.

This in­cluded a com­mu­ni­ca­tions cam­paign across so­cial and print me­dia plus the warn­ing no­tices is­sued in Septem­ber.

The fig­ures come in re­sponse to an Of­fi­cial In­for­ma­tion Act re­quest into en­force­ment of the lane, which opened on July 6, 2018.

In the re­sponse, coun­cil man­ager of democ­racy ser­vices Coral Hair said the coun­cil de­cided not to ac­tively en­force use un­til changes to the State High­way 29A round­abouts were com­pleted by Waka Ko­tahi New Zealand Trans­port Agency. This work was done ear­lier this year.

Hair said the coun­cil did not keep a run­ning tally of ve­hi­cle num­bers us­ing the bus lane. How­ever, there were up to 380 ve­hi­cles per day be­fore the warn­ing let­ters were sent.

Pre­vi­ously, the coun­cil was un­able to up­date the by­law re­lat­ing to the en­force­ment of the bus lane be­cause of on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the Maun­gat­apu Un­der­pass.

In Au­gust 2018, for­mer coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive Garry Poole ap­proved a Tem­po­rary Pro­hi­bi­tion of Traf­fic un­der the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment¯o Act to le­galise the thor­ough­fare un­til some­thing­more per­ma­nent could be done.

While this val­i­dated the sta­tus of the Hairini bus lane, it also meant no fines could be is­sued. The Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Act could not be used to en­force in­fringe­ment no­tices on mo­torists. How­ever, work to rem­edy this was done ear­lier this year prior to the Covid-19 lock­down.

Hairini and the Hewletts Rd bus lane are the only ded­i­cated lanes for pub­lic trans­port in Tau­ranga.

 ?? Photo / File ?? Buses should be the only ve­hi­cles to use the Hairini bus lane, but that does not ap­pear to be the case as Tau­ranga City Coun­cil re­veals how many breaches there have been.
Photo / File Buses should be the only ve­hi­cles to use the Hairini bus lane, but that does not ap­pear to be the case as Tau­ranga City Coun­cil re­veals how many breaches there have been.
 ?? Photo / Ge­orge No­vak ?? Dave Hig­gins has been us­ing the Hairini bus lane with­out is­sue for years but now he faces three fines af­ter en­force­ment be­gan.
Photo / Ge­orge No­vak Dave Hig­gins has been us­ing the Hairini bus lane with­out is­sue for years but now he faces three fines af­ter en­force­ment be­gan.
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