Are you an ambulance driver?

The number of people rorting ACC by falsely registering their vehicles as ambulances is increasing, NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) statistics show.

A total of 2681 vehicles were registered as ambulances in New Zealand as of July 31, NZTA figures show.

With the combined St John and Wellington Free Ambulance fleet totalling just 705, it means almost three-quarters (1976) of ambulances registered were either not in active service or falsely registered.

This was up from 2006, when the agency detected 937 vehicles that were wrongly licensed after a Christchurch woman claimed she and several friends had re-registered their cars under a category intended for non-commercial ambulances or hearses.

She went on radio, saying she paid just $58 to register her car by telling an agency she used it as a hearse to carry dead animals.

An ACC levy exemption for ambulances means it costs just $52.11 a year to register a non-commercial ambulance. When compared with $280.55 for a petrol-driven passenger car it equates to a discount of $228.44 per year.

NZTA communications manager Andy Knackstedt said people could face a fine of up to $1000 if they were cheating the system.

"People who knowingly license their vehicle falsely as a non-commercial ambulance are effectively rorting ACC, as by doing so they avoid paying the annual ACC levy which helps to cover the costs of rehabilitation for people injured in motor-vehicle crashes," Knackstedt said.

"If the Transport Agency finds out about an incorrectly licensed vehicle, a letter can be sent to the vehicle owner outlining the potential consequences and asking them to change their registration," he said.

In the past 12 months 224 owners changed their licence from ambulance or non-commercial ambulance to private vehicle.

More requirements could be put in place so people would have to prove what they used their vehicle for, but this would be time consuming and costly, Knackstedt said.

"The legislation governing vehicle licensing would allow for additional requirements to be imposed on vehicle owners to provide evidence of vehicle usage, but this could potentially increase the administration costs and the time required to process vehicle licensing transactions for a large number of vehicle owners.

"This additional cost and inconvenience would need to be balanced against the relatively small scale of the problem of vehicles being incorrectly licensed."

New Zealand has more than 3 million licensed vehicles, making the near 2000 registered ambulances just a small piece of the pie.

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