20,000 motorists cop WOF, licence fines

The Christchurch City Council has slapped $200 fines on nearly 20,000 motorists in the past financial year because they were not displaying a current warrant of fitness or licence label on their vehicle.

About a fifth of those motorists have escaped paying the fine after pleading a case for leniency. Figures released to The Press under the Official Information Act show that in the year ended June 30, 2012, the council issued 10,499 tickets to motorists who did not have a current licence label displayed on their vehicle.

It eventually waived 2351 of those tickets but it is still chasing payment for more than 500 of the remaining 8148 infringement notices.

During the same 12 months it issued 9205 tickets to motorists who were not displaying a current warrant of fitness label on their vehicle, but 1047 were later waived by the council after it received written appeals from the motorists.

Of the remaining 8158 tickets issued, the drivers have paid their fine in all but 395 cases. By law, vehicles must display a current warrant sticker and a registration label before they can be legally driven on the roads.

Any vehicle more than six years old must get a new warrant every six months, but the Government is looking at relaxing that rule by extending the time between inspections.

Annual inspections for vehicles up to 12 years old and six-monthly thereafter or first inspection at three years and annually thereafter are among the options under consideration.

Proponents argue that extending the time between inspections could save drivers between $60 million and $240m in inspection fees and time lost obtaining a warrant. Opponents fear it could result in New Zealand roads being flooded with unfit cars, leading to a higher road toll.

Road-safety campaigner Clive Matthew-Wilson said the high number of tickets issued to Christchurch motorists not displaying either a warrant sticker or a licence label was not surprising because it was estimated 10 per cent of vehicles on the roads at any one time did not have a current warrant. While there was an "underclass" who could not afford to maintain their vehicles to the standard required for a warrant, others had given up and "dropped out of the system" because they were frustrated by its failings and inconsistencies.

"There are too many petty things in the warrant of fitness checks that fail cars that are not critical to the safety of the vehicle," Matthew-Wilson said.

Fixing things such as faulty windscreen wipers could be costly and for those on low incomes it was often more than they could afford.

"If you're a single mum and you've got a choice between putting food on the table or buying new windscreen wipers so you can get your car warranted, you're going to buy food and forget about the warrant," Matthew-Wilson said.

The Press