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Man's four-year court dispute over bus lane

Bus lane on Khyber Pass Road in Auckland's Newmarket. Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly
Nelson man Norman Flounders, 79, has vowed to continue a four-year-long court scrap over a fine he got from Auckland Transport for driving in a bus lane.

The dispute has been through a hearing before two Justices of the Peace, the District Court and the High Court, and now looks set to go higher, with Flounders vowing never to pay the $300 fine and appeal to the Appeal Court.

The dispute arose from two instances, on 16 July and 20 July in 2020, when Flounders knowingly drove through a bus lane on Khyber Pass Road in Newmarket.

He entered the bus lane at the start of the bus lane and turned left into an alleyway just after the end of the bus lane, parked his car and went to a coffee shop.

Flounders was issued two infringement notices alleging that he used a special vehicle lane reserved for a bus.

He disputed that and the matter went to a hearing before two Justices of the Peace in 2021. The JPs found the offence proven and fined him $150 on each offence plus $60 in court costs.

Flounders appealed the decision to the District Court. His appeal, before Judge Grant Fraser in April last year was dismissed.

CCTV signage at the buslane on Khyber Pass Rd

Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

So Flounders went to the High Court to seek leave to appeal Judge Fraser's decision. The application was heard by Justice Mark Woolford in the High Court at Auckland in November.

Woolford declined leave to appeal.

At the heart of the case is clause 2.3(4) of the Road User Rule, which sets out what is commonly referred to as the 50-metre rule. It provides an exception to the general rule (that you cannot drive in a special vehicle lane) if the driver drives in the lane to cross it to make a turn or leave the roadway, provided the driver uses the lane for the minimum length necessary to make the manoeuvre, for no more than a maximum of 50 metres, and gives way to vehicles entitled to use the lane.

Auckland Transport staff responded to Flounders dispute with a sketch map that showed the distance between the sign showing the start of the bus lane and the end of the bus lane was 77 metres.

Flounders argued that the bus lane was not continuous because it was bisected by a pedestrian crossing that was 17.5m wide. He said this meant there was actually two distinct bus lanes, and he calculated one to measure 9m and the other to measure 40m.

Both judges ruled that there was only one bus lane, not two, and that regardless of the actual length of the bus lane, Flounders used the bus lane for more than "the minimum length necessary to complete the manoeuvre".

Another claim by Flounders that he used the bus lane because it wouldn't have been safe for him to get out of it. This claim was not borne out by CCTV video of the incidents, the judges noted.

Bus lane monitoring cameras

Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

Judge Fraser said Flounders travelled in the bus lane for more than the minimum distance necessary in order to enable him to complete his left turn, and his "explanation on both days is inconsistent with the scene as depicted in the visual record".

"He should have continued in the general traffic lane where there was limited traffic on one day and more dense traffic on the other. There were no issues in terms of safety for him to signal from the lane on the east side of the pedestrian precinct and cross into the bus lane for a short distance, and then effect his left turn," the judge said.

When it came the High Court appeal before Justice Woolford, Flounders did not tackle Judge Fraser's reasoning for finding the offences proven, and instead focused on the sketch that was provided by Auckland Transport.

He described it as a "fabrication" and "a pack of lies with no legal standing", and was adamant the bus lane itself is in some way illegal.

On Wednesday, Flounders told Stuff that he had not and would not pay the fines, and he intended to file an appeal with the Appeal Court.

"I knew the second judge would repeat what the first judge did. I knew I was dogtucker, but that said, I'm not a radical, and in this case I think everything rests on the sketch that was used and that sketch was not of a standard the court should consider," he said.

"I mean, it doesn't even include the traffic lights or show where the actual intersection is. It's a false document," he said.

"You just can't include that 17.5m pedestrian crossing as part of the measurement.

"It's the busiest part of Auckland, that area, and they want to clip everybody's ticket as they go through," Flounders said.

He said he had missed the window to appeal the decision, due to personal reasons, but would apply for leave to appeal Justice Woodford's decision.

Auckland Transport did not wish to comment.

This story was originally published by Stuff.

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