Motorists involved in crashes have been invoiced for road closures on 14 occasions in the past two years, according to the New Zealand Transport Agency.
The agency could not provide figures or details to The Dominion Post yesterday, but told Tukituki MP Craig Foss that "14 of the 23 cost-recovery events in the past two years have not involved damage to furniture or roading but incurred costs for traffic management of the incident".
Police officers say they have noticed the agency making more inquiries about contact details for motorists whose vehicles are involved in accidents where a cost has been incurred.
Shona Goodfellow approached Mr Foss, her local MP, last month to question whether the agency could invoice her for a road closure resulting from an accident involving her daughter Romy.
Romy, 19, came off Links Rd, near Napier, last June. Her car flipped and landed on its roof on a concrete wall. She suffered serious head and back injuries and was lucky to survive.
Not long after Romy left hospital after seven weeks, Mrs Goodfellow received an invoice from NZTA for $1366 for the road closure.
An email from Mr Foss' office to Mrs Goodfellow informed her the agency's regional offices were directed to recover costs and had "dealt with many insurance companies on cost recoveries and this issue had not come up before".
The policy was applied in other regions, including Wellington, the email said. This conflicts with advice from the Goodfellows' insurer, AMI, and the Insurance Council, which say the practice is news to them.
They are aware of it happening only twice - both in Hawke's Bay in the past six months.
Mr Foss' office said "traffic management is implicit in overall cost and included in that cost recovery".
The email referred to section 2.5.1 of the State Highway Control Manual, which requires consultants to advise NZTA of "the liable party and the repair costs of any damage done to road furniture or equipment".
A Transport Agency spokesman said a portion of the motor vehicle registration fee and petrol excises and road user charges went to the National Land Transport Fund, used to pay for state highway maintenance.
"However, wherever possible the NZTA endeavours to recover the costs of repairing road furniture and equipment damaged in crashes from liable drivers."
FIRM GETS $25,000 BILL AFTER TRUCK CRASH
A company whose road-marking truck crashed and blocked State Highway 2 for about five hours was charged more than $25,000 for cleanup costs.
The Osborn Road Markers truck, pictured, crashed into an oncoming truck south of Hastings on June 8 last year. Traffic on the busy highway was diverted for five hours.
The truck was severely damaged and spilled 40 litres of paint, flammable thinning chemicals and engine fuel on to the road.
The Fire Service, which is able to recover costs relating to hazardous substance emergencies, billed the company $21,316 for the attendance of five fire engines, a hazmat unit and a command unit over five hours.
It was one of 165 incidents last year for which the service recovered $670,000.
The truck driver was charged with careless driving but was offered diversion.
The Transport Agency also invoiced Osborn $4881 to repair damage to the road. Both charges were covered by the firm's insurance.
- The Dominion Post