Bus lane fine bewilders woman

Sandra Riggir was panicked after incorrectly receiving a warning for using the Links Ave bus lane. Photo: John Borren.

A road trial on Links Avenue in Mount Maunganui continues to confuse people with one warning sent to a woman who didn't even drive down the street.

On April 5 Sandra Riggir drove along Golf Rd, past the intersection of Links Ave. A few days later she received a warning letter in the mail for using the bus lane on Links Ave. 'At first, I was panicked,” says Sandra.

'I thought: ‘Oh my God, what have I done?' Because I know I didn't go to Links Ave.”

Sandra contacted Tauranga City council about her warning and was told she shouldn't have received it. 'I haven't been provided with a satisfactory answer as to why,” says Sandra. 'The logic of it escapes me.”

The Ōtūmoetai resident is concerned other people may have been ticketed incorrectly and paid without challenging it.

The eastern end of Links Ave has been turned into a bus lane for authorised vehicles only, as part of a four-month trial to reduce traffic volumes and increase safety on the street. Anyone caught driving through the bus lane will be fined $150.

In the last three weeks more than 9500 vehicles have driven through the bus lane, attracting $1.43 million in fines as of Monday, May 9.

During the first two weeks of the trial, only warnings were issued and 8500 were sent out.

Hastings woman Anne-marie Reid was showing her Rottweiler puppy at a dog show in Palmerston North at the time she received a fine. 'I thought: ‘Well, how the hell can that be? It's absolutely impossible,” says Anne-marie about opening the letter containing the fine. 'I can't be in two places at once.”

She doesn't even know where Links Ave is in Mount Maunganui and hasn't been to the city recently.

Anne-marie is frustrated she's had to spend time disputing the infringement. 'I was brassed off because I knew it was going to be a lot of telephone calls, emails, and a lot of shagging around.

'I know what the councils are like, they take their sweet time.”

She's also worried the fine won't be cleared correctly and could result in further penalties or prevent her from travelling.

'If they don't process it properly and they miss it, then it just goes unpaid and I don't want to go through that hassle,” says Anne-marie.

The woman is the second case of a person getting fined while being in another city.

Local Democracy Reporting spoke to Christchurch man James Tomlin, who received a warning despite being in Christchurch. James was concerned someone was using altered licence plates with his registration.

For all three cases, Tauranga City Council has blamed human error. The bus lane is monitored by an Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) camera.

TCC regulation monitoring team leader Stuart Goodman says human error has resulted in a vehicle registration being entered incorrectly and an infringement being issued.

'The process that is in place requires a warranted parking officer to review the evidence collected by the camera, before an infringement is issued,” says Stuart.

'Less than one per cent of processed warning letters and infringement notices have included inaccuracies – 99 per cent have been sent out correctly.

'Like anything, there is a small margin for error, one per cent is incredibly low.”

Stuart says if people that believe they have received an incorrect or unjust fine, they can dispute this. 'Information about how to dispute a fine is outlined on the infringement notice.”

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.

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