Queen St 'Essential Vehicle Area': Auckland Transport brings in clearer warning signs after $12 million in fines

Auckland Transport has changed the warning signs on a short stretch of Queen St where private cars are banned, after Newshub revealed more than $12 million in fines had been issued in 16 months.  

In July 2022, the section of Queen St from the Civic Theatre to the Town Hall was declared an 'Essential Vehicle Area' (EVA) by Auckland Transport, meaning private vehicles and taxis were banned, to prioritise buses and pedestrians.  

But not one person Newshub spoke to on Queen St in February could decipher the warning signs labelled 'GV LANE', which stands for 'Goods Vehicle Lane'.  

Auckland Transport has since introduced new 'Authorised Vehicles' signage.   

"After some customer insights analysis, the signs were changed on 24 March 2024," Auckland Transport programme policy director Graeme Gunthorp told Newshub.   

"We are always looking at ways to optimize signage. We don't want to see people getting fined but do need to enforce the EVA."  

Stacey Lemmen, who lives about an hour from central Auckland in Wellsford, accidentally drove on the banned stretch of Queen St while she was in the city for the Pink concert on 8 March.  

"For me, that just seems like a real money trap. You know, it's like, you get stuck here, tough luck for you, pay the money," she told Newshub.   

She was one of the tens of thousands who have paid a $150 fine.   

"I jumped on Google and checked it all out and saw your article and read that and I was like, 'I'm not the only one that never knew it was there'."  

After a nine-month warning period ending March 2023, the number of fines skyrocketed, reaching a high of more than 9147 in July last year. It's now trending down, but there were still over 3251 fines issued in April alone.  

Queen St 'Essential Vehicle Area': Auckland Transport brings in clearer warning signs after $12 million in fines
Photo credit: Newshub

Automobile Association (AA) policy director Martin Glynn told Newshub Auckland Transport took too long to act.  

"We will be making sure Auckland Transport closely monitors the changes and hopefully sees that the fines are coming down to a realistic level," he said. 

"If that isn't the case, then obviously further changes are going to need to be made." 

Newshub has obtained the court ruling of a fine recipient who tried to fight it, but the court ruled it was "satisfied that the signage was adequate".  

Lemmen also tried to challenge her infringement.   

"Got a letter back a couple of days ago, said they've considered my submission, but no, they want to improve the city, and to pay my fine."  

But it's a fine she described as unfair, because when she was driving on the banned stretch, the clearer warning signs were not there.