Vehicle registration plates of New Zealand

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In New Zealand, vehicle registration plates (usually called number plates) contain up to six alphanumeric characters, depending on the type of vehicle and the date of registration. Number plates display these characters on the back of powered vehicles and non-powered vehicles such as caravans and trailers authorised to travel on New Zealand roads. Most vehicles (i.e. cars, trucks, vans, etc.) are required to display plates on the front as well.

Standard numbering sequences[edit]

A vehicle registration plate of New Zealand in the optional 'Europlate' style

Cars and heavy vehicles[edit]

Private cars, taxis, and heavier road vehicles in New Zealand have number plates with up to six characters. From 1964 until 2001 these number plates had two letters followed by one to four numbers (format LLnnnn), the sequence having started with "AA100" and continuing through to "ZZ9989" chronologically (for example, XE3782 would have been issued in 1998). An observer could therefore ascertain the approximate date of first registration of a vehicle by means of the number plate.

By the end of 2000 this system had reached the end of the alphabet ("ZZ"). The series officially ended with plate "ZZ9989" - the sequence "ZZ9990" to "ZZ9999" had appeared as personalised plates years earlier. A new system began in April 2001, with three letters (starting with "AAA") followed by three numbers (format LLLnnn), with nnn starting at 100. Land Transport New Zealand also issued "AAA100" to "AAA103" as personalised plates, officially meaning that the first plate in the new series read "AAA104".

Starting with "CEA", the number ranges started with 1, as in the old system. The authorities issued this series according to the first two letters — the third letter and numbers did not necessarily get issued in sequence. As of June 2014 the registration pattern had reached "HM", followed by a third letter and one to three numbers (for example: "HMA123").

Unlike in many countries, observers cannot normally identify a location of registration by simply looking at the number-plate. One exception to this rule occurred when LLnnnn plates first appeared in 1964: most plates went to the regions in batches, starting with the "AA" series in Southland and moving progressively north. For some time one could reasonably infer that an "AF" plate hailed from Dunedin, an "AI" plate from South Canterbury, and so on. In some later instances issuers coded plates to the area of registration, such as in 1974-1976 with the allocation of plates beginning with "HB" to the Hawke's Bay region, in May 1989 with the allocation of plates beginning with "OG" to Wellington region, and in July 2000 with the allocation of plates beginning with "ZI" to Auckland region.

Motorcycles and tractors[edit]

These vehicles use one of several five-character systems. Since 2009 the system has consisted of one letter, followed by one number followed by three letters; for example 'A2ATL'.

The previous system consisted of one or two numbers followed by three letters. The system incremented the number-sequence first, so after plate "12ABC" comes "13ABC", and "99ABC" precedes "01ABD". In July 2009, these plates had reached the "ZUU"-range.

Caravans and trailers[edit]

As of 2007, caravan and trailer number plates have the format LnnnL (e.g. A123A), reaching N881S by July 2009 Also, silver-on-black plates can have trailers with motorcycle plates before the "RNA" range in 1990. Two older formats are the Lnnnn format and the nnnnL format which were still shown on black-on-white plates (e.g. 6176M, P8317) Also, some silver-on-black plates had the format as shown above with nnnnI (e.g. 5727I)

History[edit]

Before 1925 vehicle registration took place on a regional rather than on a country-wide basis. Vehicles displayed their registration numbers on the right-hand side of the vehicle, often painted on. From 1925, the authorities issued steel plates to vehicle-owners annually. This system changed when steel supplies became limited during World War II: from 1941 plates remained valid for 5 years.

The issue of permanent registration-plates started in 1964. These new plates had silver letters and numbers on black aluminium plates, and started with "AA100". The LLnnnn system started at this time. An example, a 1969 police car with an FB plate, can be viewed at MOTAT Auckland.

Reflectorised white plates with black characters replaced silver-on-black plates in November 1986, officially starting with "NA1", though an earlier limited trial run had taken place during the "MX1-MX999" run some weeks earlier.

The old silver-on-black plates remain valid and in use, though only on older vehicles. Vehicle-owners in New Zealand do not have to change registration plates when ownership of a vehicle changes, which means one can buy a pre-1987 used car which still has old silver-on-black plates on it. If old silver-on-black plates on a vehicle become irreparably damaged, the newer black-on-white plates may supplant them.

Old New Zealand silver-on-black plate, issued between 1964 and 1986.

The font used remained the same during the change from silver-on-black plates to black-on-white plates. From "PC10" onwards, zeroes have a slash through them (e.g. PP5209, UO8000).

Plates used sans-serif lettering until the start of the letter codes beginning "DFN" (March 2006), since when plates have used a heavier, partially serifed font, squarer and thicker-lined. WhatTheFont does not recognise the new "based on a German design"[citation needed] style. The free font Licenz replicates the style and spacing of this design. The authorities introduced the new font in order to foil attempts to cut out letters and put them back in upside-down when forging license plates.[citation needed]

Design[edit]

Later plates with a white background may feature a holographic pattern on the white field, observed from the XDnnnn-series. This design, visible only from certain angles and under appropriate lighting-conditions, displays strips of silver roundels with a stylised silver fern pattern in silhouette.

Most plates come in rectangular form with all the code characters on a single horizontal line. Plates for motorcycles may split the code between two horizontal lines: on the front mudguards of motorcycles they can take the overall form of an arc.)

Notes / exceptions[edit]

The registration system avoids several combinations of letters. Since 1971 the letter V has appeared only in personalised plates, as it could easily lead to confusion with U (no series-plates containing V past FV exist).

The issuers did not use the letter "Q" as the first letter; after the PZ series came RA instead of QA. Q does exist as the second letter, for example "RQ1152".

Between 1996 and 2001, number-plates with the prefix "UR" to "ZZ" with the exception of "WS","WT","WU" had 4-digit numbers after the letters, numbers starting from 1000 instead of from 1.

The LLnnnn system deliberately reserved plates starting with the combinations "CC", "DC" and "FC" for diplomatic vehicles. Mayoral and ministerial vehicles used the prefix "CR" (CRown). The Prime Minister receives plate CR1[1] while the plate DC1 is reserved for the British High Commissioner to New Zealand.

As the official representative of the Monarch in New Zealand, the Governor General's primary vehicle carries no number plate but instead displays the royal crown. It is the only standard car permitted to operate on New Zealand roads without a number plate.

Plates starting with "MN" do not appear: that series (MN1-MN9999) went to the Cook Islands in 1985. Other combinations skipped include "FA", "FO", "FU", "II", and "IO" in the LLnnnn system.

Since the change to the LLLnnn format, the letters I,O and X have appeared only on plates starting with "AAI", "AAO" and "AAX" respectively; presumably the potential for confusing these letters with numbers and other similar looking letters was only realised after those initial series. Current plates eschew the letters I, O, V, and X.

The issuers have avoided some three-letter combinations, mainly to avoid offence. Excluded combinations include:

ARS, ASS, BAD, BAG, BAT, BRA, BUM, BUT, CNT, CUM, CUN, DUM, FAG, FAK, FAT, FCK, FKN, FKQ, FKU, FQM, FQN, FUC, FUK, FUQ, FUZ, HAG.

GAY was one combination allowed as it was deemed not to be offensive, but the NZTA shortly afterwards recalled several plates in the GAY series because they were combined with undesirable number combinations, such as plates GAY690 through GAY699.[2]

BMW dealers have bought up the complete range starting with the letters "BMW" for use as semi-personalised plates. Kia cars have appeared with "KIA"-prefixes, and Hyundai cars with "HYU"-prefixes. The issuers have reserved plates starting with "CCC" and "DCC", presumably for diplomatic vehicles. The combinations EBA, FCC, and FNA-FNZ,G(A-H)A were excluded for as yet unknown reasons.

Car-dealers use a separate temporary series of yellow-coloured plates. These use one of several combinations of letters and numbers, most often a letter X followed by up to 4 digits. Originally black, these plates later became yellow in colour.

Plate series with approximate year issued[edit]

1969 EV EW EX EY EZ FB FC FD FE
1970 FF FG FH FI FJ FK FL FM
1971 FN FP FQ FR FS FT FV FW
1972 FX FY FZ GA GB GC GD GE GF GH GJ
1973 GG GI GK GL GM GN GO GP GQ GR GS GT GU GX GY
1974 GW GZ HA HC HD HE HF HG HH HJ HK
1975 HB HI HL HM HN HR HS HT HU
1976 HO HP HQ HW HX HY HZ IA IB IC ID IF IH IJ
1977 IE IG IK IL IM IN IP IR
1978 IQ IS IT IU IW IX IY JA JB
1979 IZ JC JD JE JF JG JI JJ JT
1980 JH JK JL JM JN JO JP JQ JR JS JU JW JX
1981 JY JZ KA KB KC KD KE KF KG KH KI KL
1982 KJ KK KM KN KO KP KQ KR KS KT KY
1983 KU KW KX KZ LA LB LC LD LE LF LG LH LI LJ LK LL LM LN
1984/85 LO LP LQ LR LS LT LU LW LX LY LZ MA MB MC MD ME MF MG MH MJ MK
1985/86 MI ML MM MO MP MQ MR MS MT MU MW MX MY MZ NE NG
1987 NA NB NC ND NF NH NI NJ NK NL NM NN NP
1988 NO NQ NR NS NT NU NW NX NY NZ OA OB
1989 OC OD OE OF OG OH OI OJ OK OL OM ON OO OP OQ OS
1990 OR OT OU OW OX OY OZ PA PB PC PD PE PF PG PH PI PJ PK PL PO
1991 PM PN PP PQ PR PS PT PU PW PX PY PZ RA RB RC RD
1992 RE RF RG RH RI RJ RK RL RM RN RO RP RQ RR RT
1993 RS RU RW RX RY RZ SA SB SC SD SE SF
1994 SG SH SI SJ SK SL SM SN SO SP SQ SR SS ST SU SW SX SY SZ TA
1995 TB TC TD TE TF TG TH TI TJ TK TL TM TN TO TP TQ TR TS TT TW TX
1996 TU TY TZ UA UB UC UD UE UF UG UH UI UJ UK UL UM UN UO UP UQ UR US UT
1997 UU UW UX UY UZ WA WB WC WD WE WF WG WH WI WJ WK WL WM WN WO WP WQ WR WS
1998 WT WU WW WX WY WZ XA XB XC XD XE XF XG XH XI XJ XK XL XM XN XO XP XQ
1999 XR XS XT XU XW XX XY XZ YA YB YC YD YE YF YG YH YI YJ YK YL YM YN YO YP YQ YR YS
2000 YT YU YW YX YY YZ ZA ZB ZC ZD ZE ZF ZG ZH ZI ZJ ZK ZL ZM ZN ZO ZP ZQ ZR ZS ZT ZU
2001 ZW ZX ZY ZZ AAA-AKK
2002 AKL-BAK
2003 BAL-BSS
2004 BST-CKY
2005 CKZ-DCZ
2006 DDA-DRG
2007 DRH-EHC
2008 EHD-EUE
2009 EUF-FFZ
2010 FGA-FSZ
2011 FTA-GEK
2012 GEL-GRN
2013 GRP-HFE
2014 HFF-

Commemorative plates[edit]

In general, numbers in the systems do not have leading zeroes, starting with 1000 in the LLnnnn system and 100 and later 1 in the LLLnnn system. A commemorative series of plates celebrating New Zealand's national rugby union team, the All Blacks, follows the LLnnnn system but with a leading zero after the letters "AB" (for "All Blacks"), giving them the format "AB0nnn".

In 1990 a special series of commemorative plates marked the country's sesquicentenary. These had the format nnnnNZ, with the lettering in red on white.

Personalised plates[edit]

Rights to unique combinations of up to six characters can be purchased from a private company licensed by the New Zealand Transport Agency. The purchaser may acquire any unique combination that falls outside the standard numbering sequences (apart from derogatory, obscene, or intentionally confusing combinations[3]) or standard numbers that have fallen into disuse. New Zealand does not require associating the plate with a vehicle, and allows outright sale rather than just a periodic lease.

Although plate character/number combinations can contain "spaces", they do not form part of the unique identification and are typically not stored (for example, in Police computer-systems). Therefore if a personalised plate such as "I A I" exists an owner cannot purchase a combination such as "IAI", and vice versa.

The most sought-after combinations available as personalised plates (such as "A1" or "AAAAAA") became special "collector plates", with lettering in blue on white. These plates are often offered for sale at a significant premium to standard plates.[4]

As of 2010 prospective buyers can order a personalised set of plates as:

  • normal black-and-white plates
  • "Fashion" plates (red or blue lettering, blue or black silver fern, flame, flower, rugby or New Zealand logos)
  • "Graphic" plates (with a picture either top or bottom)
  • Euro-style plates (European style and 520 x 112 mm size, with a graphic either side)
  • mini Euro-style plates (440mm x 112mm with a graphic on either the left or right)
  • message plates (with a small message above and/or below the license number)
  • branded plates (with a car marque such as Audi, VW or Jaguar)

Number-plate accessories[edit]

A number of companies provide alternatives to the standard message plate. Number-plate frames attach to the plate and provide space for messages above and/or below the license number, thus potentially perpetrating advertising. Several Maori iwi promote identity and traditional graphic designs in frames.

Number-plate lookup systems[edit]

Several New Zealand web sites now offer Number-plate lookup systems to access the data stored when registering a vehicle. Most of these services are free and available to the public.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kay, Martin; Vernon Small (2008-11-20). "Last ride for Clark as Key takes wheel". The Dominion Post. Wellington: Fairfax. Retrieved 2008-12-03. "... Miss Clark gave the thumbs-up as she left Parliament in CR1 on her last ride in the limousine reserved for the nation's leader. She returned in one of the Crown's pool cars. Mr Key, who went to Government House soon after her, came back in CR1." 
  2. ^ van der Stoep, Leigh (25 September 2011). "Whatever their fancy, drivers obliged to live with GAY". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 13 February 2013. 
  3. ^ Joelle, Dally (2012-10-01). "Crackdown On Puzzling License Plates". Stuff. Fairfax NZ News. Retrieved 2012-10-01. "Police already have the power to pull personalised number plates off cars for being offensive and now they are targeting ones that are confusing." 
  4. ^ "Resale Plate Listings - All Investment Plates - Personalised Plates New Zealand". Plates.co.nz. Retrieved 2014-04-18. 

External links[edit]