Rental car companies under fire for refusing to help clean up tourist drivers' NZ road chaos

A Kaikoura man wiped off the road by a foreign tourist wants rental car companies to be more willing to help clean up after any accidents their customers cause, after he fought a two-month battle to get compensated for his losses.

“They've got a fleet of wagons on the road, they're running a business making money out of them and they're putting these drivers in these vehicles. I think it's their problem,” Paul Gasson told Fair Go.

Paul was hit head-on near Whataroa on the West Coast by a tourist on the wrong side of the road, at the wheel of a Happy Campers van.

“It was brakes on, pulling off, but this campervan still came and hit me smack fair and square in the front of the vehicle and yeah I thought that could be it,” Paul said.

Police ticketed the tourist, 34 year-old Ludovic Le Roux from Luxembourg, for failing to keep left. Fair Go understands Mr Le Roux has left New Zealand. He has not responded to emailed requests for his insurance details, or for comment.

The crash wrote off both vehicles and endangered the lives of animal handler Paul and his highly-trained kiwi-tracking conservation dog, Dillon.

Paul Gasson has since spent two months trying to get back some of the $7000 he says the crash has cost him. Paul had his ute insured for third party damage, meaning if he had caused the crash, Happy Campers would be covered. But Happy Campers was initially refusing any responsibility to fix his loss.

“We're all in this together. We share the roads and we're sharing the conservation resource and the tourists are coming here to see our beautiful places and our wildlife. I'm doing my bit, but this seems… a little bit irresponsible, that you can put people on the roads and not take care of what happens,” Paul said.

Fair Go put that to Happy Campers’ owner Kevin Whiteside, who initially was emphatic:

“As a rental car company, we're not liable for any damage done by a person who damages someone else's car when they're hiring the van, OK?”

Mr Whiteside has a fleet of 650 vehicles across his rental companies. He told Fair Go that his agreements comply with transport regulations.

Happy Campers agreements also have insurance exclusion clauses that place all liability on the driver if the way the vehicle is used breaks any law or regulation. Mr Whiteside told Fair Go that he believes that makes their customers drive more carefully while in New Zealand.

The industry body for rental cars found this unusual.

“Most of the time unless there's a serious breach of traffic law, normal conditions of insurance coverage would apply, “said Barry Kidd, from the Rental Vehicle Association.

“Failing to give way, failing to keep left, not adjusting to the driving conditions - those things are part and parcel of driving a vehicle. It happens from time to time. People get distracted, people makes mistakes and sometimes those mistakes result in accidents, ” Mr Kidd said.

“Normally a combination of the rental vehicle company and the insurer will cover those costs,” he said

The RVA represents most major rental car brands in New Zealand, as well as Happy Campers.

Mr Whiteside has since clarified his position to Fair Go:

“While we will still hold the client liable if they have breached the exclusion clauses we acknowledge that Happy Campers still has a liability direct with owner of the vehicle the client has damaged and will deal with that in a more expedient manner.”

“We appreciate your comments that has bought this matter to our attention.”

Kevin Whiteside has paid Paul Gasson $3350 for damages - less than half what the kiwi-dog handler says he lost.

“I’m not a happy camper,” Paul said, but he added it has softened the blow and allowed him to move on and continue with his conservation work.

Happy Campers’ owner Kevin Whiteside said they're "not liable for any damage" rental drivers cause. Source: Fair Go

Weapons seized, arrests made in police raids of gang properties in Te Kuiti

Police have raided multiple properties in Te Kuiti with gang connections this morning, making arrests and seizing a cache of weapons and drugs.

Four men were arrested in the raids and are facing numerous charges including robbery, assault, and threatening to kill.

Three Armed Offenders Squad teams from Auckland, Bay of Plenty and Waikato assisted police with searches at seven addresses, over recent offending in the area.

Police say the men, aged 41, 46, 49, and 53, are due in Hamilton District Court today.

All four of those arrested have connections to gangs.

Also seized during the warrants were cannabis plants, multiple guns and ammunition.

A police Armed Offenders Squad officer. Source: 1 NEWS


Timelapse shows demolition of the Kings Arms Tavern after 130 years in operation

Auckland's Kings Arms Tavern has been demolished after 130 years in operation to make way for 102 new apartments.

The demolition was completed on Monday, and a video timelapse of the demolition was posted by new owner Urban Collective last night.

Developer Kelly McEwan said he realised the footage could be a bit nostalgic for some.

"I think it's a shame it's gone, but it does provide opportunities to take its place," Mr McEwan said.

Some of the comments on the post were negative, including one person who wrote: "When all of Auckland's live venues have been knocked down for apartments ... what is there going to be left to do for a night out?"

Mr McEwan said he understood that fans and denizens of the pub would be upset, but the wishes of late owner Maureen Gordon should be respected.

The Kings Arms Tavern has launched the careers of countless Kiwi bands, but it's being destroyed to make way for apartments. Source: 1 NEWS

"Maureen put the pub up for sale and there were no takers," Urban Collective posted on the video.

"People had the opportunity on the open market to 'step up' but the numbers just didn't work anymore.

"She wished to take care of her interests before she passed and this needs to be respected.

"She was a legend and the Kings Arms was a fantastic venue that had its time and place ... all of our team certainly had many a good night there!"

Mr McEwan said Ms Gorden herself, who passed away late last year, aged 86, had actually put a deposit on one of the new apartments herself before she passed.

“The Kings Arms is dead,” Voom singer Buzz Moller said to the crowd after the final song. Source: 1 NEWS

The venue and grounds were sold to Urban Collective for $7.4m in 2016 and the pub closed its doors this year on February 28.

The building had no heritage designation despite being more than a century old, and Mr McEwan said he suspected many parts of the building were in fact un-compliant.

An artist's rendering of how the 59 France Street site will look when completed.
An artist's rendering of how the 59 France Street site will look when completed. Source: Supplied/Urban Collective

The new apartment complex on the site will be extensive, incorporating 102 industrial-themed apartments along with ground-level commercial sites.

Apartments in the building will sell for between $645,000 and $2.39 million and they are due to be completed in mid-2020.

The Auckland stalwart will be replaced with stylish new apartments after more than 130 years in operation. Source: Urban Collective


Auckland hospitals write off $53m in treatment costs for overseas patients

Three Auckland district health boards have written off debts of $53.5 million run up by ineligible overseas patients in the past five years.

Counties Manukau wrote off $31m, having recouped only a third of treatment costs from patients themselves and their insurers.

A spokesperson said it appeared more people were visiting its area with existing health conditions and without medical insurance.

As of last month, 10 patients were receiving dialysis at the Counties Manukau DHB, with a total patient debt of more than $1.7m.

A spokesperson said patients requiring treatment for an acute injury or illness were treated, regardless of their eligibility for funded services, and unrecovered costs were passed to a debt collection agency.

At Auckland DHB, more than 100 ineligible patients are seen each year at its Greenlane eye clinic alone.

The DHB had more than $14.5m of unpaid treatment costs of which $10.9m was paid for by the Ministry of Health and $3.6m by the DHB itself.

Some patients repay money owing, either personally or through insurance policies.

Auckland and Counties Manukau receive partial refunds from the Ministry of Health because of the extent of their debts. The DHBs pay for the rest of the debt out of their general operating budget.

Waitemata DHB, which wrote off $8m, gets no extra from the ministry.

Counties Manukau said it received $3.6 million this year to recognise the unpaid debts.

The health board had a higher proportion of non-eligible patients than other regions, but it wasn't clear why, a spokesperson said in a statement.

"However, many people in our community are in New Zealand on visas and/or on a short-stay basis. This includes a large new-immigrant community, people with extended family visiting from overseas, particularly from the Pacific, and people travelling via Auckland International airport.

"It is possible, (but not provable) that in our district, more people are visiting with already compromised health status, delay seeking early medical care, do not understand where to access healthcare in NZ, are here without travel/medical insurance to cover medical costs during their stay, and/or have immigration sponsors with their own limited financial resources."

By Gill Bonnett

Auckland, Counties Manukau and Waitemata DHBs had $53m in unpaid treatment costs to overseas patients in the last five years. (Dan Cook) Source:

Police chases remain close to all-time high, but crash numbers are falling

A more cautious approach by New Zealand Police towards chasing fleeing drivers may be leading to fewer crashes, but the total number of chases remains close to an all-time high.

Half-year statistics released this month by police suggest the number of pursuits taking place is similar to last year, while the number abandoned has increased and the number of crashes has dropped by about 10 per cent.

Fleeing driver incidents have been in the spotlight in recent years, with their number increasing by 64 per cent between 2013 and 2017, going from 2308 chases in a year up to 3796.

Police adopted a more cautious approach to chases two years ago, including leaving the decision to continue or abandon a chase in the hands of a pursuit controller at the station rather than the officer driving.

The chase forced a police officer to run for his life as the car swerved to the wrong side of the road Source: 1 NEWS

The statistics detail the number of incidents, abandonments and crashes in the first six months of 2018 to June 30.

Incidents are steady, with 1892 chases recorded. If they continue at that rate, the 2018 total will be 3784 - just 12 fewer than last year.

A graph showing the number of police pursuit (fleeing driver) incidents per year. Data source is NZ Police, graph by 1 NEWS.
A graph showing the number of police pursuit (fleeing driver) incidents per year. Data source is NZ Police, graph by 1 NEWS. Source: 1 NEWS/NZ Police

Abandonments are up about six per cent, with 1119 chases called off up to June 30. That makes the end-of-year projection about 2238, compared with last year's 2105.

The number of crashes in relation to chases has fallen by about 10 per cent. There were 283 in the first half of this year, giving a projected total of 566 for the year - considerably down from 2017's total of 626.

The numbers suggest police will abandon almost 60 per cent of chases this year for safety reasons, up from about 55 per cent last year.

There were 12 deaths last year that involved police pursuits, and there have already been eight deaths in the first half of 2018.

The Serious Crash Unit is investigating the fatal incident, while Road Policing Manager Steve Greally says more people are failing to wear a seat belt.
Road Policing Manager Steve Greally. Source: 1 NEWS

Superintendent Steve Greally, the national road policing manager, said police use robust processes to assess the risks posed by chasing a fleeing driver.

"The decision whether to start, continue or abandon a pursuit of a fleeing driver is based on police’s risk assessment tool, TENR (Threat-Exposure-Necessity-Response)," he said.

"Police will abandon a pursuit if the risk is assessed as too dangerous ... This is continually reassessed throughout the incident."

Mr Greally said the fact that more people have chosen to flee from police over the past few years is disappointing.

Three people were taken to hospital after the crash, which happened after an hour-long chase. Source: Tony Alexander

"The one thing we want everybody to understand is if they're signalled by police to stop, they should pull over and stop ... It is not worth putting your life, your passenger's life or anyone else's life at risk.

"Whatever it is that you think you will get in trouble for that is making you decide to flee from police, we can always talk about it."

Police's pursuit policy is currently being reviewed by the Independent Police Conduct Authority for the seventh time in the past 20 years.

A report is expected before the end of the year.

It comes as the chase policy is reviewed by the police watchdog, with eight deaths already this year. Source: 1 NEWS