More and smarter speed cameras

SAM BOYER
Last updated 05:00 04/07/2013
Ngauranga Gorge

NEED FOR SPEED CAMERAS: Speed camera at Ngauranga Gorge.

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Police are looking to expand their speed-camera network - with red light-runners, truck drivers, and cars in the wrong lane all set to be in the gun.

Tenders have been sought for an increased number of new digital speed cameras to replace the current film cameras, which have been in use since 1993.

The tender process for the Static Camera Expansion Programme calls for hi-tech digital cameras, ready to be rolled out across the country from the middle of next year.

It is expected the tender winner will provide cameras that, within the next five years, will also be able to ticket red-light-runners, "lane non-compliance", and identify the speeds of different vehicles - such as trucks, which should be travelling only 90kmh in a 100kmh zone.

The digital upgrades should be capable of spotting speeding cars across various lanes, whether travelling towards or away from the camera, and tell whether one car among several is speeding, the tender documents state.

The Dominion Post reported in March that a "smarter" camera with many of those functions, using radar and laser-based technology, was being tested in Ngauranga Gorge with a view to extending the technology to other high-risk speeding sites.

But information obtained under the Official Information Act this week revealed the camera still has not issued a ticket since it was installed in February, despite occupying the 13th-busiest speed camera site in the country.

The same camera was also trialled in Hutt Rd for 4 months in 2011, without issuing any tickets there either.

Police denied yesterday that the new tender had been sent out because they were unhappy with the performance of the Ngauranga prototype. "No . . . nothing is wrong with the current camera," a spokesman said.

In their Official Information Act response, police said: "The camera being trialled is new technology and police need to make sure that the camera is 100 per cent effective."

Police refused to comment further yesterday, so it is unclear whether they ever intended to buy more of the Ngauranga cameras, whether it will take as long for any of the new ones to be up and running, or whether the Ngauranga camera would be compatible with the software for running the new ones.

Tender applications specify that "the preferred tenderer will be asked to supply NZ Police with 20,160 available days of static camera operation per year" for each of the first six years of the contract. That figure would suggest a minimum of 56 cameras in use all year round - a considerable increase over the existing 13 film cameras that have been moved around various sites in the past 20 years.

Unlike the existing cameras - from which the film has to be collected manually - the digital ones can be monitored from a central site.

An accompanying tender document hints at the possibility of even more cameras, based on the number of days' maintenance each would require: "The final number of cameras this equates to will be determined . . . based on the reliability and servicing requirements of their equipment."

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A police spokesman would confirm only that "the final number of cameras will depend on their cost" and would not elaborate.

Police expect to announce the tender winner in December, with the hope the new cameras would be in place by the middle of next year.

As testing continues on the Ngauranga camera - at least two years after it was acquired - police have been using mobile cameras in the gorge, issuing 790 tickets since February.

- The Dominion Post

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