TOP STORY: Bay speed camera tickets plummet

By Natalie Bridges

Fixed speed cameras in the Western Bay no longer appear to be working - with one camera not having photographed or issued a single ticket in the past two years.

Five fixed speed cameras are positioned around the region and they successfully snapped more than 9000 speedsters in 2003-04.

But last year they clocked fewer than 350 speeding cars between them.

On Otumoetai Rd, between Keilor Rd and Darraghs Rd, a fixed camera which resulted in 3199 fines in 2002-03 has not snapped a single speeding driver since.

The cameras' lack of activity coincided with the theft of an $80,000 roadside camera from Pyes Pa, as reported in the Bay of Plenty Times in early January 2004.

The device was used on a revolving basis at the fixed camera sites. It was never recovered.

However, acting Senior Sergeant Deirdre Lack explained the drop was due to a change in emphasis. Highways were now being targeted rather than urban areas.

Maunganui Rd's fixed camera between Grove Ave and Tay St also caught 3199 drivers in 2002-03 but only identified 570 infringements in 2003-04 and just seven last year.

The fixed camera on Pyes Pa Rd, between Joyce Rd and Barkes Corner, issued 1630 tickets in 2003-04 but only a mere 18 in 2004-05.

Ticket numbers were also down from fixed cameras on both Chapel St, between Maxwell Rd and Ngatai Rd, and SH2/Jellicoe St, between Cameron Rd and Boucher Ave.

Shirley Dunlop's property is next to the camera on Otumoetai Rd, where she has been a resident since 1970. She was disappointed the camera no longer appeared to be working.

"They used to flash a lot. It served a great purpose because people used to speed here.

"It used to go the whole time when it first started, then people got used to it. But it hasn't been working for a long time," Mrs Dunlop said.

She said because other locals in the area were aware of the camera's lack of action, it no longer acted as a deterrent.

"It has built up speed here now again. A lot of people know it's not working."

Joe Manning, manager of Aquarius Motor Inn which is close to the Maunganui Rd camera, said a screeching car smashed into his daughter's and wife's stationary cars parked outside last year.

"They wrote-off my daughter's car. So I'm not sure what speed the car was going and whether the camera got it."

He said speeding along the road was still an issue.

"A lot of people speed past, all times of the night as well, especially boy racers."

But despite the fixed camera results, which were obtained by National's law and order spokesman Simon Power, thousands of Bay locals are still being caught through mobile cameras.

A total of 6933 people received a speeding fine through their letterbox last year.

A mobile camera along Waihi Rd snapped the most offenders, with 826 drivers exceeding the 50kmh speed limit between Koromiko St and Bellevue Rd in Judea - almost double the previous year's tally when 483 tickets were issued.

The second camera to dish out the most fines (620) was on SH29 between Soldiers Rd and Valley View Rd.

However, that figure was down from 876 in 2003-04.

Eight out of the nine mobile cameras on SH2 clocked fewer people speeding in 2004-05 than in the previous year.

Ms Lack said the fall in fines on the highway was a positive result."If we are getting 200 less photos then that's great. It's not about tickets, it's about reducing speeds on the highways.

"More emphasis has been put on the highway with them because it's all about visibility and we want people to slow down. If we can reduce the speed on the highways then we're quite happy."

A total of 36 people were killed on SH2 over the past five years, Ms Lack said.

"In 2004 there were no road deaths on State Highway 2 on the predominantly worse stretch between Te Puke Te Maunga."

Last year 43 people died on Bay of Plenty roads - the lowest recorded toll - and just 10 of those accidents occurred in the Western Bay, down five from the previous year.

"It all comes hand-in-hand. If there are less tickets being written out and there are less photos coming from cameras, and less fatalities, then we're obviously doing something right and so are the public," added Ms Lack.

"It's all about targeting to risk. We're not out there to make money.

"We want more people to spend Christmas at home with their families. It's not about revenue at all."

However, she said the Christmas/New Year period was a disappointing end to a good year.

"We were having a great year last year until then when speeds went up significantly.

"Just two days before Christmas we got one car speeding along SH29 near the Kaimais at 179kmh."

One side-effect of focusing on highways appears to have been a rise in speed along urban areas such as Waihi Rd. But Ms Lack said this was difficult to explain.

"Maybe more people are speeding or maybe it has something to do with roading changes with regard to the expressway, maybe. We are also targeting more high risk times in certain areas."

But Mr Power was not convinced the Government was targeting the right areas with speed cameras.

He claims they have used cameras as a tool to fill their ticket quotas rather than to encourage people to slow down.

"Speed cameras should be in accident black spots in order to encourage sensible driving practices in dangerous areas.

"Labour's reputation when it comes to ticketing has been on quantity not quality. But we need to concentrate on quality by targeting the right areas if we are to bring the road toll down."

No demerit points were imposed as a result of a speed camera fine because it is not always clear who is driving.