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Urban Farm Vehicles

Wow who knew there were so many farms in Remuera or have some locals just started taking the term Remuera Tractor a bit too literally.

Motorists are evading hundreds of dollars in vehicle licensing fees by incorrectly registering their cars as farm vehicles.

It follows the revelation earlier this week that hundreds of drivers were falsely registering their cars as ambulances to save more than $200 in fees.

Other categories, including farm vehicles, also pay reduced fees, which one testing station owner says is being exploited by some drivers of Remuera tractors.

Farm vehicles fall under the Class B category, which are exempt from paying ACC levies, fuel excise and excise duty.

The classification relates to vehicles which are designed for agricultural operations and have restricted use on public roads. Alan Parker, who owns a vehicle testing station in Auckland’s eastern suburbs, said he often sees cars with central Auckland addresses come into the testing station for a Warrant of Fitness that are registered as farm vehicles.

“When we go to enter them into the system we get red flags come up about these vehicles,” he said.

“A farm vehicle sometimes doesn’t need a warrant, so we override it and we tell the system we’re inspecting them as private vehicles.”

Such customers were typically from wealthy suburbs, he said.

“There’s so many up in Remuera that are registered as farm vehicles, Toyota [Land Cruiser] Prados and that,” he said. “And maybe these people do legitimately own farms, but they’re not legitimately using that vehicle for farm use. It gives the name the Remuera tractor a new slant.”

Other customers were struggling beneficiaries, he said.

“Sometimes I can’t blame them for doing it because they’ve got nothing, and at least they’re not picking up a $250 fine for no rego.”

Typically the licensing fee for a petrol-powered Exempt Class B vehicle is $50.22, the NZ Transport Agency said, compared with $280.55 for a petrol-driven passenger car.

At over $200 for a petrol vehicle it doesn’t take too long to rack up over $100,000 in licencing fees that should go to the government while for a diesel vehicle this could be even more as a Class B exemption also means the owner doesn’t need to pay Road User Charges.

As the article mentions it isn’t only farm vehicles that people claim their vehicle as with a lot also claiming their vehicles as ambulances.

Hundreds of motorists are falsely registering their cars as ambulances, avoiding more than $200 in fees.

The NZ Transport Agency said last month’s figures showed 2681 vehicles were registered as ambulances.

But St John and the 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.

A couple of hundred thousand or perhaps even as much as a million per year might seem small compared to the billions collected annually from the NZTA’s funding sources however it still represents a large sum of money. It also seems like this would be something fairly easy to resolve as after all the NZTA should have the address for the owner of each vehicle so surely they shouldn’t be too difficult to track down.

14 comments to Urban Farm Vehicles

  • A usage-based charging system to replace the existing time-based one is long overdue. It’d be much fairer on those who don’t drive their card much, like I personally do.

    • Mike

      Ideally, all fixed charges (rego, ACC levy, insurance) should become variable by usage, to help get away from the thinking that the only cost of driving is what you put in the tank. RUCs for diesels are a step on the way, but the coverage has barely changed in the nearly 40 years since they were introduced as a world-leading innovation.

  • Greg N

    Class B Dodge should be easy to pick up, as the point of a Class B license is for a vehicle with limited need or use of Public roads.
    [e.g. a farm tractor that crosses the road once in while to go from Paddock A to Paddock B is an example of a Class B type exemption].

    That fact also means the km’s on the clock should be quite low as a result (after all driving around the paddocks all day won’t rack up 1000’s of Kms on the Odometer like a few trips to the Mountains will).

    So, if at WOF/COF time, a cross check is done against the last Odo reading(s) and if the KM’s difference is more than a few hundred K’s and its registered as a class B vehicle then the owner is told to prove the vehicle registered classification is valid before the WOF/COF will be issued. That will certainly fix 95% of the dodgers within a WOF/COF period – as they’ll find that not having a WOF is more inconvenient than the few hundred dollars saved a year by using this dodge.

    And insurance companies could also get in on the act by refusing payouts for Class B vehicles (with limited on-road use/expectation) being driven around like any other vehicle.
    [and/or where the insurance classification mismatched the NZTA registration classification].

    Would only take a few such high profile cases where insurance policies were voided due to doing that and the whole thing will fall on its ear.

    Of course, as it says Class B also exempts road user charges which is a problem. But RUC charges are continuous i.e. you can’t avoid the arrears if you stop paying them, so while you may dodge them for a few years, eventually you [or the next owner] will get caught out and have to pay the arrears to bring them up to date. Making for an expensive short term saving.

    Ambulance dodge is harder one to pick up, and their are genuine private ambulances on the road not affiliated with St Johns or the other “big guys” so you can’t say just because its not got St Johns on the side it doesn’t qualify.

    Since the ACC funds are ring fenced by source and are supposedly “self balancing”, people cheating on their ACC levies are only making other motorists pay more to make up the difference (and same with RUC charges).

    But you can say the same about those who drive with no up to date Rego or RUC charges as well and they’re probably a bigger slice of the pie to be honest.

  • Ari

    This is crazy and shouldn’t happen. Massive fines for anyone who does. But its such a small amount, it would cost more to monitor and enforce.

    I have no problem with RUC’s for everyone as long as SUV’s pay 15 time what I do and 50 tonne trucks pay a million times more than me. Then we’d get real incentives for PT.

    • nonsense

      it’s actually going the other way with the new acc cuts coming. A new SUV racking up 30000km per year will pay less my partner’s little old toyota that struggles to reach 5000 km per year, because the SUV is safer!

  • C W

    Absolutely ridiculous that they can’t put in place some controls to stop this rorting of the system. NZTA’s response has been that they can’t check every application, but this sounds like a major cop out to me, surely they can think creatively and think up some ways to sort this out.

    Ambulances should only be allowed to be registered to St Johns or other registered medical providers – hospitals, westpac rescue or whoever else legitimately operates them. Why on earth does the system allow any Joe Bloggs to register an ambulance? It’s wide open for abuse. If Anyone with a brain worked at NZTA they would get the list of the 705 legitimate ambulances and their registrations and send out letters de-registering the rest of the ‘ambulances’ unless legitimate use can be proven. There is nothing difficult or complicated about this.

    Maybe for farm vehicles registration could be restricted to rural postcodes, or to certain types/makes of vehicle.

  • Don

    I cannot believe it.
    Hyundai, Toyota, Nissan, Land Rover, Mazda do not make or have branded tractors in their product portfolio.
    Ford used to build tractors, but they are well over 20 years old now.
    Today Mahindra is the only outfit making tractors and an SUV.
    But you will not find many Mahindra SUVs in Remuera.

  • Patrick M

    They all have fantastic accountants who find the best ways to avoid as many taxes as they can. This is just the tip of the ice berg!

  • Don M

    This is not the first time this issue has been aired in the media Ref: http://www.3news.co.nz/nznews/cops-target-boy-racer-cars-registered-as-tractors-2013030216.
    It seems that not enough offenders are caught and actually ticketed to make any difference. I wonder if the AT parking enforcement officers are on the case as this would potentially be an earner but then again it was standard practice for non registration offences to be waived if the owner showed proof of registration within seven days and the same may apply here.

    • Bryan

      A police blitz of the posh schools would likely sort it out. Don’t bother with fines, just send the little Ruperts and Mathildas home in a police paddy wagon. ;-)

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