Fair Go: When a personalised plate isn't so personal

Kaitlin Ruddock
Source: 1News

Personalised plates are supposed to be just that – personal and unique to the person who owns them. But in a peculiar chain of events, one plate has been shared by two different people at the same time.

Nigel Smith contacted Fair Go after Waka Kotahi, the New Zealand Transport Agency, requested that he return his plate for a standard-issue one instead.

The combination ‘A B0AT’ had been on his boat trailer since late 2018.

But last year, he got a call from Waka Kotahi “out of the blue” asking for photos and information suggesting that his number plate was a duplicate.

“I really don't know how that could possibly be. There's no way you could have two vehicles with the same plates,” says Nigel.

According to Waka Kotahi, when a person sells a plate, they need to complete a "transfer of entitlement" form. But if there's no record of that, as in Nigel’s case, then the buyer fills out a ‘statutory declaration’, signed off by a justice of the peace and sent to the official manufacturer LicenSys.

Nigel had gone through that process and had a certificate of registration to show for it, so he didn’t see why he needed to give up the ‘A B0AT’ combination.

Fair Go spoke with the other plate owner in Auckland who revealed 'A BOAT' had been in the family for 20 years. He was also frustrated over the mix-up and said it had been painstaking trying to prove the plate belonged to him outright.

Waka Kotahi carried out an investigation, which revealed when ‘A B0AT’ was manufactured in 2004, two plates were made, even though only one is required for a boat trailer.

These were sent to the original purchaser, with one plate kept in the family and the other somehow sold years later.

The Auckland boatie did have the plate first, but for a few months in 2018 after he sold his boat and before he bought a jetski, his plate wasn't registered to a vehicle. In that short window, Nigel had successfully registered his plate.

Waka Kotahi spokesperson Andy Knackstedt told Fair Go it was “the only situation that we're aware of where something like this has happened".

"It's very unusual.

“We've offered Nigel three different alternatives for very similar personalised plates and we're really chuffed that he's found one that he likes and he's accepted that offer."

Knackstedt says the other owner had a clear history with the plate combination, so he gets to keep the exclusive rights.

Both boaties are now able to get back to the water - one driving with ‘A B0AT’ and the other ‘A BO4T’.