Get tough on fines

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION -

Dishing out fines to un­reg­is­tered and un­li­censed ve­hi­cles looks like it could be a good lit­tle earner for the coun­cil – if only they could get the cul­prits to pay.

Since Porirua City Coun­cil park­ing war­dens took on the duty of writ­ing tick­ets for ve­hi­cles fail­ing to show up-to-date war­rants and reg­is­tra­tion, more than $280,000 of fines have been is­sued. It’s an im­pres­sive fig­ure for seven months’ easy work but when you learn only $25,000 has ac­tu­ally been paid, 124 fines out of 1400 is­sued, it does kind of take the air out of the tyres.

Get­ting peo­ple to pay fines is the hard part – of course, this is noth­ing new nor a prob­lem ex­clu­sive to Porirua. Fines are a poor form of penalty or mo­ti­va­tion for those who can’t af­ford to pay them or don’t care what hap­pens if they don’t.

The amount of fines owed throughout New Zealand is a lit­tle over $600 mil­lion, and about $270m is marked as over­due.

To its credit, the Min­istry of Courts has cut the out­stand­ing sum by 25 per cent in the past three years. How­ever, it has also writ­ten off $55m of un­paid fines in the last year be­cause there was no chance of this money be­ing paid.

Courts Min­is­ter Chester Bur­rows tells us they’re get­ting tougher and per­sis­tent fine dodgers may soon lose their li­cence.

I ques­tion the logic. If some­one has amassed fines for fail­ing to ob­tain and dis­play cor­rect doc­u­men­ta­tion for their ve­hi­cle, there’s a fair chance they don’t put much stock in re­quir­ing their own doc­u­men­ta­tion to drive a ve­hi­cle.

The only way you are go­ing to make an im­pact with these peo­ple is seiz­ing their car un­til a con­certed ef­fort to pay the fine is made.

In terms of ex­pired war­rant fines, it also presents the added bonus of re­mov­ing un­road­wor­thy ve­hi­cles from our streets – which is what coun­cil reg­u­la­tory ser­vices man­ager David Rolfe tells us is the prin­ci­ple ob­jec­tive of fin­ing mo­torists for not dis­play­ing ac­tive stick­ers.

Six months to get some­one to pay a fine? And that’s even be­fore a court date is threat­ened? All the while the ve­hi­cle in ques­tion is still be­ing driven. Too slow, too soft.

I say one month to pay, an­other month’s grace, then pay the fine or lose the car.

I ap­pre­ci­ate times are tough but it’s one thing to for­get to re­new your car reg­is­tra­tion by a cou­ple of weeks and an­other to drive an un­war­ranted ve­hi­cle, amass­ing fines and not giv­ing a damn.

And you can bet the house on which group above pays their fine within a month, and which is still be­ing sent re­minder let­ters six months down the track.

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