Licence plate lookup systems of New Zealand

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Section 236[1] and 237[2] of the Land Transport Act 1998 (LTA)[3] allows public access to the Motor Vehicle Register[4] maintained by the New Zealand Transport Agency. Until recently you were required to visit a New Zealand Post Shop, fill out a form and pay a fee to access this information. New technologies and algorithms have allowed organisations to automate the process and offer this data up freely and anonymously to the public in a variety of ways over the internet. All the user has to do is enter a valid NZ license plate number.

Services Available[edit]

Stolen Vehicle Check[edit]

Run by the police this allows the public to check whether a vehicle has been reported stolen.[1]

Basic Vehicle Information[edit]

Enter a vehicles registration plate to see make, model, colour and other basic details about the vehicle. This is offered by several companies.

Securities Check[edit]

Before purchasing a vehicle, buyers can see who the actual owner is and if any money is owing on a vehicle. Data is retrieved from Personal Property Securities Register.

Automotive Parts Ordering[edit]

Most vehicle manufactures attach a VIN to their vehicles for identification purposes. This can be used to identify a vehicle's particular characteristics for parts ordering and fluid type during maintenance. A License Plate Lookup returns the vehicle's VIN and other data, removing the need for a tradesman to physically locate and record this 17-digit code.

Problem with Japanese Imports[edit]

With the influx of Japanese Import vehicles VINs were being attached at the NZ border and not by the manufacturer. As a result, much of the information contained in the VIN for parts purchasing purposes is absent[5] and many vehicles still require a tradesperson to physically identify a particular chassis and engine type. VINs attached at the NZ border start with the characters 7A.

One solution adopted by companies such as Repco and PartMaster to identify vehicle characteristics without using a manufacturer's VIN is with an algorithm that analyses other data on the Motor Vehicle Register. The problems include data inconsistencies and prohibitive laws that restrict data analysis of the Register. As a result, the majority of these part lookup systems have been restricted for use by an experienced tradesperson.

Part Finding Without a Tradesman[edit]

Goodyear incorporated a licence plate lookup system into its NZ website to suggest the correct tyre for a vehicle, although inspection, specialised equipment and a tradesman will always be required when changing tyres. One Stop Auto Parts is a company that allows public access to this type of technology.

Programming Interface[edit]

As well as purchasing this information from the NZTA through its official supplier Motocheck, several companies offer automated access to their vehicle record cache on a cost per vehicle basis. This has reduced the purchase cost of the information and allows businesses to develop their own License Plate Lookup systems. The companies that currently offer interfaces include Motorweb, Carjam API and Checka.

Land Transport Act Vs Official Information Act[edit]

While the information on the Motor Vehicle Register is official information, the Official Information Act 1982 (OIA)[6] does not affect operation of the LTA. Section 52(3)(b)(ii)[7] the OIA provides that nothing in the OIA derogates from: "Any provision which is contained in any other Act of Parliament... and which ...regulates the manner in which official information may be obtained or made available"

Data Inconsistencies[edit]

Inconsistencies exist in the register data making automated matching of vehicles difficult. Although many input fields are available[8] most are not mandatory and the quality of the data entered differs depending on the experience of the operator and the information available to them. Open input fields are used in some instances where lists should be provided causing spelling differences and errors. Model and submodel names are sometimes reversed, vehicle features are often omitted. Over a third of all chassis and engine types are missing, incorrect or not machine readable.

Prohibitive Laws Preventing Deep Analysis[edit]

The NZTA offers data analysis of the register[9] but not with VIN, Engine Number or Chassis Codes as these can uniquely identify a vehicle. Technically, analysis would exclude all uniquely identifying data, however this is a legal grey area that has hindered the development of vehicle matching systems using Motor Vehicle Register information.


  1. ^ "Section 236 Application for information from register". Retrieved 2012-12-09. 
  2. ^ "Section 237 Entitlement to receive information". Retrieved 2012-12-09. 
  3. ^ "Land Transport Act 1998". Retrieved 2012-12-09. 
  4. ^ "Motor Vehicle Register information". NZ Transport Agency. Retrieved 2012-12-09. 
  5. ^ "NZ Import VIN vs Manufacturer's VIN". NZ Transport Agency. Retrieved 2012-12-10. 
  6. ^ "Official Information Act 1982". Retrieved 2012-12-09. 
  7. ^ "Official Information Act 1982 Section 52". Retrieved 2012-12-10. 
  8. ^ "Vehicle Attributes". NZ Transport Agency. Retrieved 2012-12-10. 
  9. ^ "New Zealand Motor Vehicle Registration Statistics". NZ Transport Agency. Retrieved 2012-12-10.