Greg Price Are there re­ally that many dis­hon­est peo­ple out there?

New Zealand Classic Car - - Price On - By:

In Au­gust 2006, the Nzher­ald ran a story about a car reg­is­tra­tion scam. Ap­par­ently a Christchurch fe­male caller to a ra­dio talkback show claimed that she and sev­eral of her friends had reg­is­tered their cars un­der a cat­e­gory in­tended for non­com­mer­cial am­bu­lances or hearses. She went on air on Newstalk ZB say­ing that she had paid just $58 to reg­is­ter her car by telling the NZTA Agency (then LTNZ) that she used her ve­hi­cle as a hearse to carry dead an­i­mals. At that time the nor­mal car reg­is­tra­tion cost was $183. The caller then went on to claim that she de­fined ‘dead an­i­mals’ as be­ing frozen chick­ens bought at the su­per­mar­ket. She claimed that sev­eral of her friends had done the same thing, and seem­ingly got away with the ruse. Sub­se­quent callers to the ra­dio sta­tion con­firmed that they had also done this. As you would ex­pect, on the same day as the talkback show went to air, some 40 peo­ple re-reg­is­tered their ve­hi­cles un­der the ‘hearse’ cat­e­gory.

LTNZ spokesman, Andy Knack­st­edt, warned peo­ple that mak­ing a false dec­la­ra­tion was an of­fence un­der the Trans­port and Driver Reg­is­tra­tion Act, and of­fend­ers faced the pos­si­bil­ity of a $1000 fine. Re­port­edly sev­eral own­ers who had changed their ve­hi­cles to ‘hearses’ sub­se­quent to the broad­cast, changed the us­age back fol­low­ing this LTNZ warn­ing.

LTNZ said that it would be check­ing the mo­tor ve­hi­cle reg­is­ter, and fol­low-up ac­tion would be taken against those own­ers whose ve­hi­cle was found to be im­prop­erly li­censed. I’ve no idea if that hap­pened, but seem­ingly no such checks are ac­tu­ally car­ried out and, with the ben­e­fit of hind­sight, I sus­pect that LTNZ was re­ly­ing on fear of be­ing caught out as the main method of get­ting peo­ple to com­ply.

User Pays

All the above came to mind when I bought our Mazda B1600 util­ity, as it was reg­is­tered as a ‘farm ve­hi­cle’ — reg­is­tra­tion for a whole year be­ing around $50. I found it hard go­ing into the NZTA Agency, chang­ing the us­age to ‘pri­vate’ and pay­ing some $300-plus in reg­is­tra­tion costs as a re­sult.

Farm ve­hi­cles are ex­empt (un­der Class B) if they are used pri­mar­ily ‘on the farm.’ Farm­ers also en­joyed claim­ing tax back on their petrol on the ba­sis farm ve­hi­cles do not ven­ture out onto the road. We have all heard the anec­do­tal ev­i­dence about farm­ers fill­ing up their or­di­nary car with ‘tax-free’ petrol from the farm sup­ply, and then head­ing off into town or the lo­cal pub. As re­cently as Au­gust 2015, NZTA went public again with a story about peo­ple reg­is­ter­ing their ve­hi­cles as ‘am­bu­lances’ — as at July 2014 there were 2681 ve­hi­cles reg­is­tered as such.

It would seem to me that NZTA does not, as a gen­eral rule, carry out au­dits of reg­is­tered ve­hi­cles to en­sure that they are not im­prop­erly reg­is­tered. I say this be­cause if (for ex­am­ple) my Mazda B1600 was in the sys­tem with a city ad­dress, but with a ‘farm ex­emp­tion’, then it would have been ob­vi­ous that some­thing was se­ri­ously amiss.

Clas­si­fi­ca­tion Check

You’ve all prob­a­bly heard that ACC levies are com­ing down as of July 1, 2015 — ex­cept for mo­tor­cy­cles less than 40 years old. Good on NZTA and ACC for telling mo­torists up front to only reg­is­ter their ve­hi­cles un­til July 2015, to get the full ben­e­fit of the re­duc­tions.

How­ever, I be­lieve there is still a prob­lem with some ve­hi­cles and mo­tor­cy­cles be­ing reg­is­tered with an in­cor­rect us­age clas­si­fi­ca­tion, and un­less NZTA has a fool­proof au­dit process in place, there will still be some cheats who will try to out­fox the sys­tem.

I se­ri­ously doubt if any of our read­ers are reg­is­tra­tion cheats as such. I do, how­ever, re­mem­ber in the days be­fore VIN num­bers/iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, that a few own­ers sim­ply re­moved the reg­is­tra­tion plate (and the sticker, in some cases) from one ve­hi­cle to an­other as a way of avoid­ing reg­is­ter­ing all their fleet.

I’d like to be as­sured that NZTA has a ro­bust au­dit process for de­ter­min­ing if each and ev­ery ve­hi­cle is prop­erly reg­is­tered. Ar­guably its com­puter sys­tem could be pro­grammed to ‘flag’ ex­empt ve­hi­cles so that fur­ther en­quiries can be made, es­pe­cially in cases where the us­age is be­ing changed from ‘pri­vate’ to ‘ex­empt’, and a non-farm-type ad­dress is used. Also, I’ve watched enough tele­vi­sion to be­lieve that with all the CCTV cam­eras around the city, some of the tapes could be ex­am­ined in more de­tail and reg­is­tra­tion num­bers checked to en­sure that the ve­hi­cles are prop­erly li­censed/reg­is­tered? Doesn’t the NZ Po­lice have some­thing akin to that in pa­trol cars now? Ap­par­ently they can zero in on a ve­hi­cle with their cam­eras and es­tab­lish if the ve­hi­cle is stolen or not. What about pro­gram­ming it to alert of­fi­cers if the ve­hi­cle is cur­rently on a ‘farm ve­hi­cle’ ex­emp­tion? If the car/bike is in Queen Street, Auck­land (or a sim­i­lar city lo­ca­tion) at the time of its ap­pre­hen­sion, then surely the driver has some se­ri­ous ex­plain­ing to do?

Peo­ple who cheat the sys­tem are not just rip­ping off ACC but also you and me. I al­ready pay ex­or­bi­tant amounts of ACC levies, and I be­grudge con­tin­u­ally pay­ing huge levies be­cause the cheats are not be­ing caught.

Drive care­fully — and watch out for camper­vans/am­bu­lances!

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