Porirua council needs to cash in on parking fines

Editorial

BY MATTHEW DALLAS
Last updated 08:53 18/09/2012

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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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