Hundreds of motorists are falsely registering their cars as
ambulances, avoiding paying more than $200 in fees.
The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) said 2681 vehicles
were registered as ambulances, as at July.
But St John and Wellington Free Ambulance services have only
705 registered ambulances between them - meaning up to 1976
private vehicles could be falsely registered.
An ACC levy exemption for ambulances means it costs only
$52.11 a year to register a non-commercial ambulance,
compared with $280.55 for a petrol-driven passenger car - a
difference of $228.44.
The difference is even greater for commercial vehicles, which
cost up to $590.78 to register.
The total loss in levies to ACC is at least $392,500 a year.
Auckland had the greatest number of ambulance registrations
with 309 - far more than the 186 ambulances in St John's
entire northern region, which spans Northland to Coromandel.
It was followed by Hamilton with 288, Christchurch with 270,
Manukau with 147, Hastings with 107 and Waitakere with 106.
NZTA spokesman Andy Knackstedt said vehicle owners were
required to licence their vehicles correctly, and anyone who
falsely licensed a vehicle as an ambulance was effectively
The agency did not seek evidence of a vehicle's use at the
time of registration. However, when it became aware of a
falsely registered vehicle, it sent a letter warning the
owner of the potential consequences and asking them to
correct the registration type.
Vehicle owners who deliberately provided false information
could be fined up to $1000, and also risked losing insurance
cover if they were involved in a crash.
Mr Knackstedt said warning letters were sent out regularly.
In the past year, 224 vehicle owners had changed their
registration type from ambulance to private vehicle.
The law did allow NZTA to require owners to provide evidence
of vehicle usage, Mr Knackstedt said.
"But this could potentially increase the administration costs
and the time required to process vehicle licensing
transactions for a large number of vehicle owners, and this
additional cost and inconvenience would need to be balanced
against the relatively small scale of the problem of vehicles
being incorrectly licensed."
ACC spokesman Glenn Donovan said levies covered the costs of
supporting people injured in crashes on public roads.
"Choosing to register a vehicle incorrectly is therefore
depriving ACC of the funds it needs to provide this support
to people who need it."
Because ACC was a no-faults scheme, it covered treatment
regardless of whether someone was involved in legal or
illegal activity at the time of an injury.
"This could potentially include those who incorrectly
register their vehicle, as well as their fellow New
A Wellington Free Ambulance spokeswoman said ambulances were
a precious resource that did an important job.
"We fundraise around $4 million each year to keep the wheels
turning on our free service. Reduced registration is of
significant importance to us as a charity."
St John did not wish to comment on the registration numbers.
- By Matthew Backhouse of APNZ