Greg Price Why do we still have it?

New Zealand Classic Car - - PRICE ON - By:

We re­cently re­ceived an in­ter­est­ing let­ter from a reader con­cern­ing the dif­fi­culty he had ex­pe­ri­enced try­ing to re­trieve the own­er­ship his­tory of a mo­tor ve­hi­cle that he had just ac­quired, and one that had been con­tin­u­ously li­censed since new, and still car­ried its orig­i­nal plates (see Read­ers’ Writes, NZ Clas­sic Car July 2015). He thought (wrongly, as it turned out) that he would be able to re­quest from the New Zealand Trans­port Agency (NZTA) a full own­er­ship his­tory, as he had paid the nec­es­sary fees up front. You can imag­ine his an­noy­ance when all he got was pages noted ‘in­for­ma­tion not avail­able’, with NZTA cit­ing the Pri­vacy Act. They wouldn’t even tell him who the cur­rent reg­is­tered owner was, though it was him! The term ‘reg­is­tered owner’ seems to have been re­placed with ‘reg­is­tered per­son’ de­spite each and ev­ery owner of a reg­is­tered ve­hi­cle in New Zealand be­ing as­signed an ‘NZTA Owner ID’ num­ber. NZTA goes to great lengths to tell us it no longer records ‘own­er­ship’ of ve­hi­cles — rather it records the ‘reg­is­tered per­son re­spon­si­ble for the ve­hi­cle.’ If that was true, why does NZTA main­tain owner IDS?

Keep it sim­ple

Since 1975 I have been keep­ing a world­wide reg­is­ter of MKI Zephyr con­vert­ibles and, wher­ever pos­si­ble, I have ob­tained a full own­er­ship his­tory of each car. In the past, this was a sim­ple ex­er­cise in New Zealand, achieved by first ob­tain­ing the name and ad­dress of the cur­rent owner (from Mo­tor Reg­is­tra­tion Cen­tre, then LTNZ, now NZTA) and then writ­ing to each owner re­quest­ing a copy of the ‘Own­er­ship Pa­pers.’ In those days, it cost 50 cents for this in­for­ma­tion and a fur­ther two dol­lars for a full list of pre­vi­ous own­ers. The first prob­lem for our correspondent was that, thanks to NZTA not both­er­ing to com­put­er­ize past hard-copy files, its records only go back to the ’90s when the sys­tem was first com­put­er­ized. Anec­do­tally, those hard-copy records still ex­ist, as the Ar­chives Act pre­vents NZTA from de­stroy­ing them. I un­der­stand that if some­one wants to spend around $500, a ‘man­ual’ search of those boxes and boxes of records can be car­ried out, but with­out any guar­an­tee of a re­sult. I have pre­vi­ously sug­gested that the NZTA turn over those records to (for ex­am­ple) the Vin­tage Car Club of NZ (the ac­tual His­tor­i­cal Ve­hi­cle Au­thor­ity in NZ). How­ever, I guess the damn Pri­vacy Act would pre­vent this from hap­pen­ing, and it seems un­likely that NZTA would spend money to com­put­er­ize those old records. The next thing that stuffed up our correspondent from ac­cess­ing his ve­hi­cle’s his­tory was the 2011 leg­is­la­tion change which re­sulted in the names and ad­dresses of cur­rent and pre­vi­ous own­ers not be­ing made avail­able to re­questers. One of the rea­sons for this change was that some or­ga­ni­za­tions were re­quest­ing lit­er­ally thou­sands of per­sonal de­tails on a daily ba­sis for purely mar­ket­ing rea­sons. Th­ese changes re­sulted in those same groups be­ing able to ‘re­quest’ the same bulk in­for­ma­tion, but in a way that you and I were less likely to no­tice. For ex­am­ple, how many of you know about the NZ Gazette, let alone ac­tu­ally read it on a reg­u­lar ba­sis? The NZ Gazette lists (among other things) the names of or­ga­ni­za­tions and in­di­vid­u­als which have re­quested ac­cess to the ve­hi­cle data­base. Once ac­cess has been granted, ap­proval lasts for five years. While com­mon sense would dic­tate that busi­nesses such as debt col­lec­tors, park­ing build­ing oper­a­tors, tow truck com­pa­nies and the like would be can­di­dates, other groups have also gained ac­cess to the data­base — in­clud­ing fi­nan­cial ser­vice providers, mo­tor ve­hi­cle traders and ser­vice sta­tions, to name but three. An ap­pli­ca­tion for ac­cess can cost any­where be­tween $650 and $1200 — and that does not nec­es­sar­ily en­sure ac­cess will be forth­com­ing.

Au­tho­rised pur­poses


Clearly my abil­ity to con­tinue with my MKI Reg­is­ter was se­verely re­stricted by th­ese changes — par­tic­u­larly the ‘opt­ing out’ fa­cil­ity. That’s ac­tu­ally a waste of time when you see just how many in­di­vid­u­als can oth­er­wise ac­cess your records. For ex­am­ple, a reg­is­tered mo­tor-ve­hi­cle trader has au­to­matic ac­cess to the cur­rent owner’s de­tails, in­clud­ing their con­tact de­tails. For many years I have had an un­listed con­fi­den­tial tele­phone num­ber for work-re­lated rea­sons. How­ever, any per­son with ‘au­tho­rized’ ac­cess to the mo­tor-ve­hi­cle data­base can ac­cess my phone num­ber, and in one case that I was aware of, has done so. How­ever, we can be our own worst en­e­mies when it comes to keep­ing our de­tails pri­vate, which is why I ques­tion why we still need the Pri­vacy Act as such.

What about our re­cent correspondent? He could al­ways reg­is­ter as a Mo­tor Ve­hi­cle Trader for around $450 per an­num — that would give him lim­ited ac­cess to the in­for­ma­tion he seeks, but only as far back as the NZTA’S com­put­er­ized records go. Carjam, Checka and sim­i­lar sites will at least give some his­tory on the ve­hi­cle in terms of dates of own­er­ship changes, war­rants of fit­ness, kilo­me­tres cov­ered etc, but the only way to con­clu­sively prove past own­er­ship of a ve­hi­cle is if some­one holds the orig­i­nal ‘own­er­ship’ pa­pers.

I can also con­firm that, even as we speak, our ve­hi­cle trans­ac­tions are be­ing mon­i­tored by the au­thor­i­ties to en­sure that we do not sell more than six ve­hi­cles per year, and do not im­port more than three per year. As I said in my ar­ti­cle at the time ( NZ Clas­sic Car, Novem­ber 2010), the 2011 amend­ment to the Land Trans­port Act, specif­i­cally Sec­tion 241, was sup­posed to sig­nif­i­cantly limit ac­cess to the in­for­ma­tion held on the NZTA data­base to au­tho­rised per­sons for spe­cific pur­poses. ‘Au­tho­rised Pur­poses’ were sup­pos­edly those that were in the pub­lic in­ter­est to the ex­tent that pri­vacy con­cerns of in­di­vid­u­als were out­weighed, for ex­am­ple mo­tor ve­hi­cle deal­ers want­ing to do safety re­calls and ser­vice cam­paigns, in­sur­ers af­ter de­tails of peo­ple who have been in­volved in ac­ci­dents with their pol­icy hold­ers etc. This month’s home­work is to check out back copies of the NZ Gazette ( and be flab­ber­gasted by just how many or­ga­ni­za­tions, busi­ness, and in­di­vid­u­als can ac­cess your ve­hi­cle’s de­tails, and your own per­sonal in­for­ma­tion — ex­cept, of course, our correspondent. I reckon they should pub­lish a list of those who do not have ac­cess to your in­for­ma­tion — it’ll be a damn sight shorter!

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