NEW ZEALAND CLASSIC CAR PRICE ON Registration Cheats
Greg Price Are there really that many dishonest people out there?
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.
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.
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!