The NZ Transport Agency has successfully prosecuted an Auckland driver who repeatedly refused to pay tolls when using the Northern Gateway Toll Road - the first prosecution of its kind since the road opened almost four years ago.
Robert Masaberg, from the Auckland suburb of Snells Beach, was convicted in the North Shore District Court of 20 charges of failing to pay a toll and ordered to pay a total of $1156.67 in fines, and court and prosecution costs ($800 in fines - $40 for each charge - $130.67 in court costs and $226 in prosecution costs)
Mr Masaberg did not appear to defend the charges, but the court said it accepted NZTA evidence of his repeated non-payment of tolls and ruled that the charges had been proven.
At the end of October, Mr Masaberg owed $5181 in unpaid tolls, unpaid administration fees and additional costs connected with attempts to get him repay his debt.
Celia Patrick, Group Manager of Access and Use – the NZTA’s regulatory group which administers the collection of tolls – says the 20 charges were a sufficient number to send a clear message to others who actively evade making toll payments.
“Their behaviour is unacceptable to the vast majority of drivers who pay their tolls on time – the NZTA is committed to ensuring that the same rules apply to everyone using the toll road.
“Tolls collected on the road help to repay the debt incurred in order to construct the Northern Gateway Toll Road 10 years earlier than would have been possible without tolling. Since it opened in 2009, this section of State Highway 1 has delivered many benefits to drivers in terms of safer travel, time savings, and less wear and tear on vehicles. It is only fair that everyone who enjoys those benefits pays their share for using the highway,” says Ms Patrick.
The Automobile Association says it agreed with the NZTA’s decision to prosecute the driver. .
“Today’s judgment is a timely reminder to drivers and riders who refuse to pay the toll and have accumulated substantial debt, to pay their tolls or face the consequences,” says AA spokesperson Mike Noon. “The AA fully supports the NZTA undertaking further prosecutions to ensure the worst offenders are not able to free-ride, but rather pay their fare share of the costs of using the toll road.”
Ms Patrick says the NZTA now plans to prosecute three other people. One of them owes $3780, and the other two owe smaller amounts - $900 and $500 respectively.
“To do the right thing on behalf of everyone who does pay on time, prosecutions will not only be based on the level of debt but on a driver’s behaviour if they repeatedly evade toll payments regardless of how much they owe.”
Ms Patrick says that since the NZTA began its prosecution process, there has been an increase in the number of people paying tolls before the required 5 day period expires to avoid additional charges, and other drivers are clearing older, historical debt.
During the first three months of the toll road’s current operating year from 1 July, the amount in unpaid tolls and administration fees was $238,000 and $90,000 of this had already been collected by the end of October.
The Northern Gateway Toll Road opened in January 2009, and about 96.5% of drivers pay on time – a compliance rate high compared with other toll roads overseas.