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Criminal & traffic law

Riding buses and trains without paying (“Fare evasion”)


What can happen to me if I don’t pay a bus or train fare?

Land Transport Act 1998, ss 79M, 128F

If you’re travelling on public transport, ticket inspectors employed by local councils can require you to show them evidence you’ve paid. If the bus or train service is using electronic ticketing with smartcards (like Auckland’s AT HOP card), you have to give the inspector your card so they can use a hand-held smart reader to check you’ve paid.

If you don’t show them evidence you’ve paid, they can give you an infringement notice, like a parking ticket – this will require you to pay an infringement fee of up to $500.

Those powers can only be exercised by traffic inspectors who’ve been officially appointed (“warranted”) for this role by the Police Commissioner. They’ll carry identification to show they’re official inspectors. Other transport workers – drivers and conductors – don’t have those powers.

But it’s a defence if you had made reasonable attempts to pay the fare and there were no available ways of doing it – for example, if the ticketing machine was broken. You’ll need to write to the transport authority (Auckland Transport for example) and put your case to them. For more information about how to challenge infringement notices (see: “Infringement offences: Parking and speeding tickets, and other lower-level offences”).

So that the ticket inspectors can get the information they need in order to give you an infringement notice in those situations, they’ve got the legal power to require you to tell them your full name, address, phone number and date of birth. If you refuse to tell them, or if you give them false information, this is a criminal offence, and if you’re convicted you can be fined up to $1,000. This will also give you a criminal record, unlike getting an infringement notice. It’s classed as a Category 1 offence, which means you’ll be dealt with in the District Court – for more information about the court process for Category 1 offences (see: “Category 1 driving offences: Fines or community-based sentences only”).

If you’ve refused to show the ticket inspector evidence that you’ve paid, they can also order you to get off the bus or train (or not let you on if you haven’t yet boarded it). If you refuse, this is also a criminal offence, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000.

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Driving and traffic law

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: www.communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres/

For Community Law’s guide to applying for a limited licence and template application forms: communitylaw.org.nz/resources/legal-letters

Waka Kotahi – New Zealand Transport Agency

Waka Kotahi’s site provides a wide range of driving and road safety information, including on topics covered in this chapter.

Website: www.nzta.govt.nz
Phone: 0800 699 000
Email: info@nzta.govt.nz

Search your question on Waka Kotahi’s resources section: www.nzta.govt.nz/resources

New Zealand Police

The New Zealand Police’s “frequently asked questions” section provides helpful information, particularly the “Driving/road safety” and “Tickets/infringements” section.

Website: www.police.govt.nz/advice-and-services/faqs

New Zealand Government

The New Zealand government website sets out more information about driving fines and penalties, including how to pay for infringement notices.

Website: www.govt.nz/browse/transport/driving-fines-and-penalties

Consumer Protection

The Consumer Protection website has useful information on a range of consumer topics, including private parking tickets and the towing and clamping of cars.

Website: www.consumerprotection.govt.nz/help-product-service/cars/parking-clamping-towing

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