Jordan Bond is a reporter for NZME's Local Network.

Unpaid Bay fines could cost licences

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Photo/Supplied.
Photo/Supplied.

Almost 600 Bay residents have been threatened with losing their right to drive over unpaid traffic fines.

Figures obtained by the Bay of Plenty Times under the Official Information Act reveal Tauranga District Court sent 540 letters in the last two years warning debtors to pay outstanding traffic fines or face a suspended licence. Waihi District Court sent warning letters to 55 debtors.

The warning letters were sent under the Driver Licence Stop Order (DLSO) scheme, an initiative introduced in February 2014 to recover outstanding traffic-related debts.

More than $360,000 has been directly recovered from Tauranga residents as a result of the DLSO warning letters, and $30,000 in Waihi.

Debtors who refused to pay their fines following a warning letter were suspended from driving until their fines were paid or a payment plan was set up.

Tauranga District Court suspended four people from driving in the last two years for continued refusal to pay outstanding fines.

Tauranga debt collector Delwyn Weatherley said most debtors who owed small amounts were usually able to pay them back - but chose not to.

"They don't want to - that is my firm belief," said the Back to Black owner. "If they wanted to, they could. But they see no reason why they should.

"Debtors have no appreciation for the impact it makes on creditors when they don't pay their debts. They have no idea the creditor actually has bills to pay out there."

New Zealanders owed around $585 million in unpaid fines to the government.

Ms Weatherley said the threat of a suspended licence would not alarm some debtors.

"I think that would make very little impact on serial offenders. People who lose their licences still go out and drive," she said.

However, she said all fines were worth pursuing, no matter how small.

"It's the old saying, 'If you look after the penny, the pounds look after themselves'. You've got to go after these small ones all the time."

The figures show $11.6 million in fines had been paid as a direct result of the warning letters.

Justice Minister Amy Adams announced the campaign has raked in $43.5 million in previously unpaid fines since February 2014.

Mrs Adams announced 30,000 warning letters had been sent in the two years to January 30.

However, the documents showed 19,567 letters had been sent since the initiative was introduced in February 2014.

The ministry stopped serving DLSOs on July 1 last year, and was "changing procedures ... to make them more effective" - but continued to send warning letters.

FINES: Unpaid fines have seen almost 600 people threatened with having their licence suspended.

If they wanted to, they could [pay the fines]. But they see no reason why they should.

Delwyn Weatherley, Tauranga debt collector

- Bay of Plenty Times

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