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Improving our infringement notice system

15 October 2006

Improving our infringement notice system

Courts Minister Rick Barker today announced the second phase of a review into the overall effectiveness of the scale and impact of infringement notices imposed outside the Court system.

“The basic infringement system, which has been serving a useful purpose in New Zealand society for 38 years, is not broken," said Rick Barker.

"But the system is under strain. The infringement notice system was started simply to issue parking tickets, but fines are now collected for 19 active infringement regimes and issued by around 100 different organisations.

"Nearly forty percent of the 2.6 million infringement notices issued each year are filed at the District Court for enforcement. The Collections Unit does a great job collecting infringement fines, but the fact so many get to this stage suggests that in many cases, the system is not working as it should.

"We have just completed the first stage of the infringement review, a thorough stock-take of the infringement notice system. Information on this is being made available today.

"Developing a coherent and efficient infringement structure is a complex job. The infringement system has evolved with little guidance and this has led to inconsistencies. One example is that some local authorities offer time to pay arrangements while others don’t. The only option for people wanting to pay their fines off over time, but who live in areas where this isn't possible, is to wait until they're contacted by Collections. This increases costs for both the taxpayer and the individual.

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"As part of the review we have consulted with the agencies who issue fines, and talked to those with large fines about their experiences.

"A separate Ministry of Transport work stream supported by the New Zealand Police is currently underway examining strategies to improve road safety and this will include an examination on the role and effectiveness of fines in moderating behaviour for certain road transport requirements. This work, which is being led by my colleague Hon Annette King, will link to the proposals I will be taking to Cabinet early next year.

"Part of our stocktake was a qualitative study of young infringers with multiple unpaid infringement fines. A key finding was that once these young people accumulated fines of around $2000, they no longer saw payment as a realistic option, and further infringements did not act as a deterrent.

"This shows we need to identify people with fines approaching this level at an earlier stage so we can use case management approaches to make effective interventions.

"Our work has shown that monetary penalties aren't always the answer, and other approaches such as demerit points or the greater use of warnings may be more effective.

"The second phase of designing and developing new infringement policy is well underway and will be reported back to Cabinet within the next six months. It consists of three work streams that will focus on:

1. Whether new guidelines, and possibly new law, is needed to ensure a higher level of consistency between different infringements schemes.

2. Ways to improve compliance and remove payment barriers, including consideration of issues raised in a report on young people and infringements.

3. Getting tougher on people who try to evade paying infringement notices.

“There is a strong element in all of this about reaching a balance that is at the right size, the right scale and that achieves the right impacts and desirable behaviours.

"There are no ‘off the shelf’ solutions and whatever future directions are taken, the bottom line will always be we must all comply with the laws of the land", said Rick Barker.

ENDS

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