Speedsters face licence loss over unpaid fines

By Isaac Davison politics isaac davison@nzherald co nz

5:30 AM Friday Nov 15, 2013
The policy will focus on 20,000 of the worst debtors with multiple fines or a poor record in paying off tickets.

The policy will focus on 20,000 of the worst debtors with multiple fines or a poor record in paying off tickets.

Drivers who refuse to pay speeding fines will have their licence confiscated – sometimes on the side of the road – and possibly lose their car under changes due in months.

From February, the Justice Ministry will ramp up efforts to recoup more than $200 million in outstanding traffic fines, most for speeding.

It will issue Driver Licence Stop Orders as a last resort to people who repeatedly ignore warning notices or court orders.

Any person found driving in breach of one of the orders will have their car impounded for 28 days.

Associate Justice Minister Chester Borrows said in some cases people would have to surrender their licence on the side of the road if police detected an order was in place.

He said the measure would apply only to people who ignored repeated 28-day deadlines for fines.

“You’ve got about four months from the time you’ve been stopped and given a ticket to pay. That’s not bad, and that’s interest-free credit.”

The policy will focus on 20,000 of the worst debtors with multiple fines or a poor record in paying off tickets.

Ministry executive Nigel Fyfe told MPs yesterday that a number of enforcement measures would be tried before a licence was suspended.

These would include orders for direct payment from wages, benefits, bank accounts or through property seizure. Drivers would get two weeks to make arrangements to pay the fines. They would not have to wipe out the debt in a lump sum, but would have to start paying off some to get their licence back.

Labour transport spokeswoman Darien Fenton said her party supported the policy, though it held concerns it could penalise people who needed their licence to get to work.

At present, drivers owe $240 million in fines.


The New Zealand Herald

New Zealand First focus on early election

5:30 AM Friday Oct 18, 2013

 Winston Peters believes an early election is likely.  Photo / Glenn Taylor

Winston Peters believes an early election is likely. Photo / Glenn Taylor

The focus of NZ First’s annual conference this weekend will be about readying the party for an early election next year which Leader Winston Peters believes is more likely than not.

There were a number of objectives for the conference, Mr Peters told the Heraldthis week, “but the principle one is to ensure that our systems, programmes, technology and future strategies are very clearly imparted to the membership for the big battle that’s coming”.

The meeting in Christchurch takes place at the end of week where Prime Minister John Key’s Government suffered a blow with Act Leader John Bank’s resignation as as minister and shortly after it sustained a dip in the polls.

“We think there’s every likelihood of an early election. It’s more likely than not, we seriously need to be ready for it”, Mr Peters said.

“An early election is for when you’re running scared … There’s too much uncertainty and doubt out there and although the Government would be reluctant to have to own up to the fact that it can’t go on, there is a distinct possibility (of an early election) for a number of reasons which are better kept to myself.”

Commenting on the polls which showed softening support for Mr Key as prime minister and for his Government, Mr Peters said he believed they were lagging indicators.

“Polls are frequently a reflection of a public change three months ago. It’s already happened. I believe it will only worsen for this Government.”

He claimed the Government was worried by to the growing awareness among New Zealanders that the economy was not being managed for their benefit.

“The Government talks about GDP growing but the New Zealand people are saying well it’s not happening to me or provincial New Zealand.

“I’ve been through towns where there’s all manner of shops closed and that is still the lifeblood and backbone of the country in terms of export growth and the answer has to be because so much of New Zealand is now foreign owned.”

Mr Peters indicated foreign ownership of New Zealand assets including homes would be one of themes of his keynote speech on Sunday.

“The elephant in the room that no other party wants to talk about but which is one of the clear factors in the housing crisis in this country and in Auckland in particular, is unfocused immigration and external foreign ownership of New Zealand’s realty assets.

“We’re the party with the record on this and whereas in the past we’ve been accused of being racist and xenophobic, the truth is that some many of the commentariat actually write articles today knowing full well that all that is like reading a speech from New Zealand First.”

The speech would also emphasise other issues where Mr Peters said other parties were now coming around to his party’s views and policies including opposition to asset sales and support for compulsory retirement savings.

He was confident his party would increase its tally of MPs at the next election well into double figures.

“We know with enormous confidence that if we could get eight seats [in 2011] in a media shutdown, with no money and in a total blackout and outside Parliament, we can do a darn sight better with some of those features reversed in 2014 and we’re going for broke to do it.”

The conference would see discussion of how the party could improve its use of technology “to expand our loyal supporter base way beyond our paid up membership to the next tier”.

However ahead of its conference the party was having trouble with technology, shutting down its social media presence following a complaint about youth wing leader Curwen Rolinson which sprang from claims that a member of Mr Peters’s staff faked his CV.

Mr Peters said the claims were false, while party president Kevin Gardener was reluctant to comment, saying he didn’t want the issue “mucking up” the conference.


The New Zealand Herald

Editorial: Stay awake: it’s time to make your vote count

5:30 AM Monday Oct 7, 2013

Local body elections billboards in Auckland City. Photo / Richard Robinson

Local body elections billboards in Auckland City. Photo / Richard Robinson

Local democracy has a delicate life at more risk of suffering from neglect than abuse. When most of its eligible voters ignore its debates and cast an unthinking vote, if they vote at all, they are at risk of handing power to an unrepresentative minority. In Auckland the risk is already apparent.

In the absence of a strong mayoral candidate against incumbent Len Brown, the contest is between the leftish mayor and challengers who are further left. Rivals such as John Minto do not seriously expect to be elected, they are standing to draw the debate left and they are succeeding.

Last week they moved the mayor’s position on the union campaign for the “living wage”. Having previously said he would wait for a report on paying council workers an $18.40 hourly minimum, Mr Brown now endorses the proposition.

The living wage is a fine principle but its adoption by the council needs to be carefully considered in all its implications for Auckland employers and ratepayers, not approved under pressure from election rivals. At this rate Mr Minto’s promises of free public transport, construction of 20,000 council rental houses and income-related rates, may be only weeks away from a mayoral endorsement.

It is hard to take much interest in an election where the hottest issue might be whether or not citizens should be expected to mow their strip of lawn on the street outside their property. This has never been in question for three-quarters of the city where the council has not previously mown the berm. But the former Auckland City Council used to cut the grass on the isthmus.

The new Auckland Council’s decision to save the cost could be expected to appeal to the right and offend the left, but the reverse has occurred. John Palino, the most active mayoral candidate on the right, has noticed that the grass is getting long and promises, if elected, to give local boards the chance to reinstate council mowing.

How that promise might be received in Manukau, Waitakere and North Shore remains to be seen, though offered the service residents there would accept it too. This is how the scale and cost of government constantly grow. On this issue, Mr Brown is defending the public purse, pointing out that it would cost $12 million to $15 million a year to mow all the berms, adding 1 per cent to rates.

Yet Mr Palino is promising to keep rate increases level with inflation, rightly challenging the mayor’s notion that local government has to accept costs rising above general inflation. A “council rate” of inflation is largely a result of soft contracting and it is up to voters to stop it.

Only one mayoral candidate, Stephen Berry, would go further, reducing rates across the board. Mr Berry also advocates selling shares in Ports of Auckland and the airport to finance the inner city rail link, which he opposes but accepts will go ahead. He favours the city’s spread as well as intensification and would allow the port to reclaim more of the Waitemata.

His is a lonely voice in the public debates but possibly not so lonely among those who do not make their voices heard and possibly will not vote. Of the many who do not vote in local body elections, most say it is because they do not know enough about the candidates. Many others say they intend to vote but do not get around to it. Not many say they are not interested.

It would be odd to be uninterested in decisions that may affect your house and its value, your street, water supply, drains, traffic and transport services, the parks and trees and most of the amenities that make a residential area pleasant, or not. Those complacent about these things cannot afford to leave the election to a few activists. It pays to stay awake.


The New Zealand Herald

Bigger Virgin stake seen as smart Air New Zealand play

12:51 PM Saturday Oct 5, 2013

Analysts were not worried by the financial position of Virgin Australia, which posted a net loss of A$98.1 million for its last financial year. Photo / Richard Robinson

Analysts were not worried by the financial position of Virgin Australia, which posted a net loss of A$98.1 million for its last financial year. Photo / Richard Robinson

Air New Zealand’s plan to boost its stake in Virgin Australia is a smart, strategic move that will protect and strengthen its transtasman alliance with the Aussie airline, say analysts.

This country’s flag carrier, which is 73 per cent owned by the Government, yesterday announced it had received regulatory approvals to acquire an additional 3 per cent of Virgin Australia, taking its shareholding to 22.9 per cent.

Air New Zealand said the approval allowed it to increase its stake by a further 3 per cent to 25.9 per cent, provided it complied with “creep” provisions under the Australian Corporations Act. Those provisions allow a shareholder to build its stake beyond 20 per cent provided it does not increase it by more than 3 per cent in any six-month period.

“In the airline industry, equity stakes have become an increasingly important part of cementing partnerships,” said Craigs Investment Partners analyst Chris Byrne. “Air New Zealand wants to be one of the stronger partners for Virgin.”

Virgin Australia’s other major shareholders are Singapore Airlines (19.9 per cent), Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group (12.47 per cent) and Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways, which last month boosted its stake to 13.4 per cent from 12.34 and is targeting a 19.9 per cent shareholding.

Salt Funds Management managing director Paul Harrison said increasing the shareholding was a good strategic move for Air New Zealand and protected its revenue gains from the transtasman alliance.

The partnership connects Air New Zealand’s 26 domestic destinations in this country with Virgin Australia’s more than 35 domestic Australian destinations and strengthens the Kiwi carrier’s position against Qantas and Emirates in the highly competitive transtasman market.

“Air New Zealand has seen Etihad start to increase its stake [in Virgin Australia] a little bit, so they’ll be trying to make sure they don’t lose influence,” Harrison said.

Forsyth Barr head of private wealth research Rob Mercer said Virgin Australia was a key part of the New Zealand carrier’s Australasian strategy and the plan to increase the stake showed the investment was seen as a long-term one.

“To be strong in the Pacific Rim does require Air New Zealand to have a good network into Australia.”

Analysts were not worried by the financial position of Virgin Australia, which posted a net loss of A$98.1 million for its last financial year.

Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon said the opportunity to increase the shareholding and the recent extension of the transtasman alliance meant the airline could work “confidently” with Virgin Australia to provide a competitive Australasian and international network.

Shares in Air New Zealand closed up 0.5c yesterday at $1.50.

By Christopher Adams

The New Zealand Herald

Power price games

Simon Bridges. Photo / APN

Energy Minister Simon Bridges buried bad news about rising power prices by delaying release of official figures until just before Parliament went into recess, Labour’s energy spokesman, David Shearer, says.

But Mr Bridges says he is happy to defend National’s record on power prices against Labour’s “any day of the week”.

In the three months to May – as debate raged over the sale of state power companies and Labour’s proposed NZ Power electricity market reforms – the cost of power for the average New Zealand household rose by 2.2 per cent, adding almost $50 to the annual bill.

“It was one of the largest quarterly increases in recent years,” Mr Shearer told the Herald.

The increase was revealed in the May Quarterly Survey of Domestic Electricity Prices, which has been released in mid-June in recent years.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), which prepares the survey, told Labour in late May the timing would be the same this year.

But the survey was issued on July 11 at 1pm – “the last day Parliament sat before a two-week recess and too late for the Opposition or media to take the Government to task”, Mr Shearer said.

Documents obtained under the Official Information Act show Mr Bridges asked for it to be released at that time despite MBIE telling him it wanted to release it earlier.

Mr Shearer said that contradicted Mr Bridges saying in his response to parliamentary questions that the survey had not been delayed.

“The Government was clearly afraid of releasing the bad news, given Labour’s NZ power policy will take hundreds of dollars off Kiwi families’ bills while Mr Bridges continues to defend power prices as competitive and fair despite the massive increases,” Mr Shearer said.

He pointed out the August quarter figures were also released at 1pm on Thursday last week, the final day of Parliament before the current two week recess, “so Mr Bridges has a habit of releasing stuff so he doesn’t have to answer questions in the House”.

“Mr Bridges is so arrogant he thinks he can hide bad news by sitting on information Kiwis have a right to know.”

Mr Bridges told the Herald he first saw the survey on the weekend of July 6, “and we didn’t muck around, we got it out”.

But documents obtained by Labour include a June 26 MBIE memo to Mr Bridges giving main points from the survey and telling him it was planning a July 2 release date.

“No, I didn’t get that, ” he told the Herald. “I’ve just been told the first one was sent back, but I didn’t see that. It was incomplete.”

He said he was “happy to defend our record on power prices against Labour’s any day of the week”.

“I wish they’d ask me more questions about energy in the House … Whether it’s a Tuesday, Wednesday or a Friday, look frankly I couldn’t care less and Labour needs to get a life.”


The New Zealand Herald