Top toll dodger in court
Drivers charged for Northern Gateway finesSTEVE HOPKINS
The NZ Transport Agency is taking its first major Northern Gateway toll dodger to court.
A motorist who has racked up $3900 worth of fines - as of last month - is due to appear in the North Shore District Court on November 20 to face 20 charges of failing to pay a toll.
This is the first time the NZTA has prosecuted a motorist for a large outstanding debt.
Last November it was revealed NZTA had written off more than $700,000 in unpaid fines to June 2011 and the 10 worst fine dodgers owed more than $15,000. As of June 2011 motorists owed $445,044 in unpaid fines for 119,308 trips.
At that time AA public affairs manager Simon Lambourne said the toll debt was ''rapidly becoming a very sorry joke'' and NZTA needed to prosecute motorists to send a ''very loud and clear message'' about compliance.
In March this year NZTA announced they would do exactly that and were preparing prosecutions against the five worst offenders.
The first of these offenders has now been charged.
"The NZTA believes this prosecution will send a message to other toll evaders that tolls must be paid in the interests of fairness for the vast majority of drivers who enjoy the benefits of the road and who pay their tolls on time," NZTA spokesman Ewart Barnsley said.
He said another four prosecutions were in the pipeline.
In June the agency took Hans Gruber to court over a toll debt of around $100. The retired lawyer was fined $160 and ordered to contribute $452 towards the agency prosecution costs and pay $130.89 court costs.
Gruber has since appealed that decision to the High Court and a hearing is expected to take place early in the new year.
Earlier this year NZTA National Tolling Manager Andy Thackwray said publicity about the impending prosecutions had promoted some fine dodgers to pay their bills.
One motorist had cleared a $1380 debt and three others owing $3050, $1550 and $1500 had made arrangements to pay.
NZTA has 35 years to pay $159 million towards the cost of building the $356m road, which opened in January 2009.
The toll road is a 7km section of State Highway One between Orewa and Puhoi - a shorter, quicker option than SH17 through Orewa and Waiwera.
Cars and motorbikes have to pay $2.20 and trucks and buses $4.40 each time they pass through the tunnel.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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