New powers to crack down on illegal cars

By Matthew Martin

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The Rotorua District Council has new powers to have unregistered cars towed away and sold, cracking down on owners thinking they can flout the law.

Rotorua district councillors voted unanimously to go ahead with the seizure of unregistered vehicles at a meeting of the council's economic and regulatory services committee yesterday.

The purpose of the new powers was to clamp down on a small percentage of vehicle owners who thought they could flout the law by not changing their vehicles' registration details when taking possession of it.

However, according to the council's Regulatory Services Group manager Neven Hill, the new vehicle seizure powers will be used only in cases where the council does not know who owns the vehicle.

"This is not aimed at currently lapsed registration but recidivist offenders who believe wrongly that they can evade the current laws."

The power to seize and dispose of vehicles owned by "persons unknown" was made available to councils after an amendment to the Land Transport Act 1998 and came into force on May 1, 2011.

Mr Hill told councillors that since May 1, 2011, the council had issued 195 infringement notices, to a value of $33,410, to vehicles registered to "persons unknown", which were not able to be enforced through the courts.

"Many of these are for recidivist offenders with one offender racking up over 23 infringements with a value in excess of $3600 and, unfortunately, this vehicle is still on the road."

Mr Hill said the district's police were in total support of the council's new enforcement powers and would be on hand to help council staff when a vehicle was to be towed away.

"This has been a perplexing issue for us ... some people in this community are very good at finding loopholes and getting around the law," he said.

The council now has one parking warden trained and qualified to carry out vehicle seizures in the district.

The seizure process will involve the parking warden identifying the vehicle and checking to see if it was on the system as a "vehicle of interest".

Once this is done the vehicle will be "blue stickered" with a large sticker on the driver's window.

The owner then has 48 hours to register the vehicle.

If the vehicle is found on the road after 48 hours the qualified parking warden, or police officer, can then have the vehicle seized and towed away to a safe storage facility.

The vehicle can be released if proof of registration is given, outstanding fines are paid in full and towing and storage fees are also paid.

If the vehicle is not released within 10 working days the vehicle can be disposed of or sold with all revenue going to the council.

Mr Hill said the new powers were not put in place to punish drivers who had forgotten to register their vehicle, or to collect revenue, but to keep unsafe vehicles off the road.


VEHICLE SEIZURES - THE PROCESS:



  • Offending vehicle recognised by parking warden


  • Vehicle is "blue stickered"


  • Owner then has 48 hours to register vehicle


  • If, after 48 hours, vehicle is found on road a seizure notice is completed


  • Police and parking warden have vehicle towed away


  • Owner can then claim any personal items left in vehicle


  • Vehicle released if registration, outstanding fines and towage fees paid


- ROTORUA DAILY POST

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