The number of overdue traffic fines has almost tripled in the past three years - and the effects of the economic downturn are being blamed.
Figures obtained from the Ministry of Justice by the Herald on Sunday show that 373,000 people were issued with infringement notices in 2011.
But 134,000 of those were not paid by the due date, up from 49,000 in 2009 and 73,000 in 2010. As a result, offenders racked up a total of $47.8 million in penalties and court fees on top of their original fines.
The Government believes some people deliberately avoid paying, but family support groups blame the economic downturn and heavy-handed collection tactics.
"For some, it has come down to a choice between having food on the table or paying a traffic fine," said Darryl Evans, boss of Mangere Budgeting Services Trust in Auckland. "About 80 per cent of people who come to us for help have serious issues with being unable to pay these kinds of penalties. The numbers are increasing every month."
Evans said most of his clients genuinely wanted to clear their fines, but he believed collection companies needed to be more flexible.
"The Ministry of Justice itself is the most difficult agency to deal with as they simply won't compromise," he said. "Most of my clients want to pay, but they want to pay at a rate they can afford.
"The Ministry usually won't accept repayments negotiated over a longer period of time, which leads a lot of people to attempt to not pay at all."
Penalties were added to the original fine until the amount owing got to a level where people felt they could never clear it, Evans said. "They stick their heads in the sand hoping the problem will go away, which it won't. It gets worse."
Evans said it would make more sense for collection agencies to accept a time-payment arrangement than "chasing people for large sums they can't afford".
The worst offender in the figures was a driver - whereabouts unknown - who racked up an astonishing $185,313 for speeding, parking, registration and regulatory driving offences.
The second-worst fine-gatherer moved to Australia after clocking up $84,328. The third lives in the west of the North Island and has fines totalling $67,102.
The top five motoring infringements last year were: 145,000 people were caught with no warrant of fitness.
100,000-plus were snapped by speed cameras.
50,000 failed to display a licence label properly.
50,000 people parked over time limits.
46,000 were pinged for driving unaccompanied with only a learner's licence.
The Government has vowed to get tough on fine-dodgers. Late last year it introduced a new system to catch more people trying to slip the net.
The scheme, which involves data-matching with the Inland Revenue Department and the Ministry of Social Development, collected more than $16 million in overdue fines in its first seven months. About 193,000 people who owe fines or reparations were identified.
"For fines to be a credible sanction, the public must believe that they will be enforced," said Minister for Courts Chester Borrows.
"Data-matching targets people that we have been unable to locate by other means. These are people who are able to pay their fines, but deliberately choose not to. That is unacceptable. "