NZTA under review after motorist death

NZTA will be subject to a review of its regulatory functions after the death of a Dargaville man was linked to a culture of education rather than enforcement at the agency.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford announced the review today.

Concerns had been mounting since the agency admitted there were 850 open compliance files relating to the agency’s regulation of companies that issue WoFs and drivers' licenses, and other transport-related businesses such as bus companies.

Those concerns boiled over yesterday when NZTA admitted that poor regulatory enforcement had contributed to the death of William Ball in January.

Ball’s car had been given a WoF the previous December by Dargaville Diesel Specialists. The company was known to provide poor WoF checks and did not check Ball's seatbelt, which had frayed. Ball's seatbelt failed in an accident, killing him.

NZTA had been aware of concerns about regulatory compliance at Dargaville Diesel Specialists since 2011. 

Over the last week NZTA has been the subject of several reviews and consultations.  

It has faced allegations that it did not take adequate action when concerns were raised over conflict of interest allegations facing two vehicle certifiers, JEVIC and VINZ. 

The allegations arose after a Newsroom story found the companies mislead the regulator, disguising the fact they were certifying vehicles that were owned by a mutual parent company. 

Those allegations resulted in NZTA announcing a possible change to regulations surrounding conflicts of interest last Friday. 

On Wednesday, NZTA also said it had appointed Kristy Mcdonald QC to look at the Dargaville case.

Review of regulatory functions

The latest review will look into NZTA’s regulatory functions and will be conducted by the Ministry of Transport. Since October, NZTA has admitted that it had a culture of “education” rather than “enforcement".

Companies found to be non-compliant were not subject to penalties.

Twyford said the review was needed to reassure the public that deficiencies in NZTA’s regularly performance were being addressed.

“There are a number of issues that need to be addressed to provide assurance to me, and the public that deficiencies around NZTA’s regulatory performance are identified and addressed, and that is why we are asking for advice on what changes to the regulatory function are required,” he said.

The agency has 850 “open compliance files” relating to the certification of businesses that have raised concern, some dating back years. 

NZTA has said there is no way of knowing how many vehicles are affected. One “open file” could refer to a local garage, which certifies a small number of vehicles, or a large company which deals with hundreds.

This claim was repeated on Wednesday. 

NZTA CEO Fergus Gammie told Newsroom there were 1956 vehicles with warrants issued by Dargaville Diesel Specialists. If the 850 open compliance files contain just a few cases similar to Dargaville, there could be several thousand cars on the roads with inadequate WoFs. 

The review will contain recommendations for the agency and will finish by March 2019. 

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