A bus with a tyre so worn and damaged that its steel wires were exposed was one of several ordered off Rotorua roads during a sting on tourist vehicles.

The operation, dubbed Operation Safe Tourist, was carried out by the police's Commercial Vehicle Inspection Unit (CVIU) to monitor compliance among tourist buses, operators and drivers in Rotorua.

Over three days, 92 vehicles were stopped and checked. Three were issued "out-of-service orders" which meant they could not continue their journeys. Another five were issued out-of-service orders that were able to be dealt with on the roadside before they could continue. Fifty-four had minor faults which did not affect vehicle safety or performance.

Acting Sergeant Brent Gray from the Rotorua CVIU said in one case the tyre's steel wires were exposed from wear.

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The sting at the end of last month also involved the New Zealand Transport Agency, Tourism New Zealand, the Inland Revenue Department and the assistance of a private investigator firm for Tourism New Zealand.

Mr Gray said the most common issues found were lighting faults - particularly headlights and brake lights. "Other common faults involved fire extinguishers and emergency exit controls and signage."

He said correct completion of work time records was the main issue the CVIU identified with drivers. Mr Gray said of the three vehicles ordered off the road, operators were required to fix the defects and get a new Certificate of Fitness (like a Warrant of Fitness for light vehicles) before they could go back on the road.

"The potential for injury is so much higher for passenger service vehicles because of the number of people involved in any incident. Passengers should not be put at risk through poorly maintained vehicles or drivers who are fatigued or lack the appropriate licence to operate a passenger service vehicle safely," he said.

"Tourism is economically significant for New Zealand, and Rotorua in particular. It is important that visitors have an enjoyable and safe experience while they are here - including on our roads. Tourists have a right to be safe and any lapse in safety standards in the transport they utilise will not be tolerated."

Mr Gray said the joint operation showed the majority of tourist operators and vehicles met the required standards and most issues were minor.

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Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said it was "absolutely crucial" tourist operators were safe so it was pleasing to see audits like this carried out, especially with the ever growing tourist market in Rotorua.

"It shows the need for ongoing vigilance about repairs and maintenance and keeping them roadworthy."

Tourism New Zealand general manager corporate affairs Deborah Gray said it was important tourist operators met required standards. "The better the overall experience the more likely a visitor will go home and recommend visiting our country to others."

Operation Safe Tourist:

• 92 tourist vehicles stopped

• 3 ordered off the road immediately

• 5 had to fix problems roadside before they could continue

• 54 had minor faults

• 18 infringement notices issued