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

Debtors pay up over licence threat

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More than 400 Bay residents have been threatened with losing the right to drive for failing to pay traffic fines.

Figures obtained by Hawke's Bay Today under the Official Information Act reveal Hastings District Court sent 201 letters in the past two years warning people to pay their outstanding traffic fines - or have their licences suspended.

Napier District Court sent 200 warning letters.

The 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 $250,000 had been directly recovered from Bay residents as a result of the warning letters, and only four people had their licences suspended.

Debt collector Colin Hardie said some debtors tried to hide but, unfortunately for them, debt rarely disappeared - and usually grew.

"Generally, with government debt, they get the money regardless. You see it on TV - if you don't pay your fines and want to go to Australia, you get to Customs and they say, 'sorry, you can't go'."

He said the threat of a suspended licence would encourage most people to pay outstanding fines, but not everyone.

"People lose their licences and drive anyway, some don't really care.

"At the end of the day, if you owe the money you should pay, regardless of who you owe it to or what the debt's for."

Nationwide, $11.6 million in fines had been paid as a direct result of the warning letters.

Justice Minister Amy Adams said the campaign had 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 released showed 19,567 letters had been sent since the initiative was introduced in February 2014.

The Ministry ceased actioning stop orders on July 1 last year, and was "changing procedures ... to make them more effective" - but continued to send warning letters.

Driver Licence Stop Orders since February 2014:

* Hastings District Court: 201 letters, $121,915 fine payments.

* Napier District Court: 200 letters, $134,568 fine payments.

- Source: Ministry of Justice

- Hawkes Bay Today

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