WHEN EVERY OTHER CAR IS A SILVER SEDAN, PLATES CAN BE A GREAT ID
Back before cellphones, tablets, portable DVD players and mobile games consoles became part of our daily regime, those of us stuck in the back seat would turn to travel games that relied on us applying our eagle eyes and quick-thinking minds to the cars passing us by.
And, whether the kids were the passengers or you were the kids, there are probably many Kiwis who fondly remember whiling away the hours using number plates to come up with their entertainment for those long journeys.
The humble licence plate has transformed itself over the years. Various systems have replaced one another — colours and prefixes changing over the passing decades — and processes for registration have become simpler.
The biggest trend it has experienced in the recent past, however, is the increasing appetite of New Zealanders to have a number plate that reflects their personality. Introduced in New Zealand in 1988, personalised number plates gave drivers the opportunity to create a tailor-made number plate with a unique six-character combination.
Nearly 30 years on, and it’s still a popular service for those who have a bit of extra cash at their disposal. As well as personalising the character combination, drivers can also cherrypick the look and feel of their plate, choosing from chic, slim, tough and European designs. And, if you’re really keen to stand out from the crowd, you can add an additional message around the outside of the plate.
Many owners of unique plates advertise their sense of humour. Picture / Mark McKeown
It’s not a cheap exercise, especially if you’re looking for a recognisable combination of characters, and it goes without saying that bespoke plates cannot match an existing plate, contain derogatory or obscene language, or be intentionally confusing.
That said, there’s still a lot of fun to be had if you want to put your own individual stamp on your car, pay tribute to your favourite band, or just stand out from other road users.
Speaking of plates, drivers in New Zealand must make sure that the numbers and letters on their vehicles’ registration plates are clearly visible. It doesn’t matter if your car is parked up and stationary or if you’re on the move — if a warden or police officer notices your number plate is obscured then you risk being landed with a $200 fine.
What’s more, drivers with bent or dirty number plates should get them straightened out or cleaned to avoid landing fines.
You can apply for replacement duplicate plates if your registration plate has been damaged, destroyed or lost but you can only duplicate the registration plates that are currently issued to a vehicle.
Taking the bike out for the weekend? If you’re frequently loading up the back of the car, it’s perfectly legal to obtain supplementary registration plates — slightly smaller in size and labelled “supplementary” — that can be attached to objects such as bike racks. In fact, as bikes can obscure your permanent registration plates, it’s wise to get one.
Only supplementary plates issued by the Transport Agency are legal so don’t buy your own plate or acquire one online, or you can be left open to fines of up to $5000.
And, believe it or not, hanging a piece of cardboard off your bike rack that’s got your registration number marked up in a faded marker pen doesn’t quite cut the mustard, and you’ll certainly be setting yourself up for a hefty fine.