Rotorua, Taupo and Whakatane district courts waived more than $7 million in fines in the past three years, according to official figures.

Ministry of Justice records show Rotorua District Court remitted more than $4 million in fines from 2012 to 2014. Taupo District Court waived almost $2 million and Whakatane more than $1.5 million.

The number and dollar amounts of fines remitted decreased each year at all three courts.

In some cases, an alternative sentence was ordered when a fine was remitted.


Over the three-year period, the courts substituted 112 fines with community detention, 2032 with community work, 17 with home detention and 122 with imprisonment.

Rotorua Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesman Peter Bentley believed offenders should be imprisoned if they didn't pay up.

"A fine is a form of punishment for an act that a person has chosen to commit," he said.

"If a fine isn't paid that says to me that A: the judge got it wrong the first time and the person isn't accountable for the act, or B: the person has no respect for the judicial system."

Mr Bentley didn't think community work, community detention or home detention were suitable alternatives.

"If [offenders] won't respect the judicial system, you need to give them a reason to respect the judicial system. If losing their freedom is the way to teach that respect, so be it."

Ministry of Justice general manager of collections Jacquelyn Shannon said the ministry was committed to ensuring fines and reparation remained a credible sanction. Legislation passed in 2010 gave the ministry enhanced collection powers, she said.

"Changes include judges having the ability to re-sentence a person to prison or home detention if reparation they have been ordered to pay is unenforceable or unaffordable, provided these sentences were available at the time of the original sentencing ...


"Our efforts are paying off. The amount of outstanding fines and reparation has fallen from $658.8 million in July 2011 to $567.1 million owing as at August 31 2014. Meanwhile, the proportion of overdue fines has reduced from 48.2 per cent in July 2011, to 42.1 per cent as at August 31 2014."

If required, enforcement of overdue amounts could include clamping vehicles, seizing and selling property, making compulsory deductions from a person's income issuing warrants to arrest, suspending drivers' licences and preventing a person's international travel.

However, in some circumstances, the remittal of the fine was considered the most appropriate action, she said.

"Examples of when this may occur include if a person dies, a company is in liquidation, or when a deputy registrar makes a decision to remit small outstanding balances," she said.

Nationally, the number of fines wiped rose from 78,443 in 2012 to 87,175 in 2013 and dropped to 65,033 in 2014.

The value of fines wiped trended downwards. In 2012, $33,418,612 in fines were remitted, in 2013, $54,048,015 were remitted and last year, $40,847,021 were remitted.