Posted April 01, 2020 18:19:52The new licence plate issued to all New Zealanders, designed to help prevent the country from being hit by a tsunami, is being criticised by business leaders as a dangerous intrusion on their privacy.
The license plate, which was announced by the Government on Tuesday, has become a lightning rod for the public’s anger and a rallying cry for businesses and the government’s critics.
Businesses and government critics have labelled it “unfair, impractical and a little bit pointless” and urged the Government to remove it.
“I would prefer the Government not to put out the new licence plates, as it is a good thing, it gives people a sense of belonging and makes the country a little safer,” said Ken McLean, CEO of the Wellington-based tourism and hospitality business, the Wellington Council of Tourism.
But a number of the business leaders who signed the letter to the Government, including Wellington City Council chairperson Mike Kelly, have defended the plate, saying it helps keep tourists and businesses safe.
New Zealanders will soon be able to register their identity online with a single click, allowing them to make purchases and access government services.
Instead of the standard licence plate, the new license plates will have a small logo on them, and the number of digits will be based on the licence plate.
They are currently the only plates issued to foreign nationals.
A number of businesses and groups, including the Association of New Zealand Restaurants, the Association for New Zealand Tourists and the New Zealand Chamber of Commerce, have also urged the government to remove the plate.
They said it was an “unnecessary invasion” of their privacy and would be “foolish” to add another “security threat” to the country’s identity.
In response, Mr Kelly said: “This is a reasonable request from a lot of businesses, and I understand that they want the plate removed.”
“We are concerned about this and will work with them to get a solution that is appropriate and in the interests of all New Zealanders.”
The plate is set to go into effect on April 1.
Mr Kelly said the plate was not designed to prevent the government from responding to a natural disaster, but rather to give people “a sense of self-worth”.
The new plate will have the same number of “four” digits as the previous plate.
The number of digitation on the new plates is also different to the previous one, which meant the number could be written in either capital letters or lowercase letters.
When the Government introduced the plates, it said they were designed to give New Zealand people “some measure of control over their personal information”.
However, BusinessNZ, the countrys biggest business lobby group, has slammed the Government for not being able to “identify the exact type of information that is collected and used for this purpose”.
“We don’t think that it is the right way to go about it,” the group’s chief executive, David Wark, said.
“[This] is a really big issue for New Zellers and for tourists.
It will put a strain on the businesses that rely on the plates.”
Mr Wark said the plates could also be used to track a person’s movements, including their mobile phone and credit card details.
He said there was “an enormous amount of privacy” lost when a person had to pay for the plate when they were not using it.
“There’s not going to be much point in the Government getting rid of it if the numbers are still going to have that information in them,” he said.
“The whole point of the plates is to give us a sense that we have control over our information.”
Business leaders have also questioned the Government’s decision to put a limit on the number that could be used on the plate for purposes of identity checks.
Currently, there is a limit of five per person.
Under the new limit, the number on the old plates could only be used for a total of two identity checks, or four times a year.
That number could potentially be used by a police officer to verify that someone is the rightful owner of a property or vehicle.
It could also have a “legitimate purpose”, such as a national security reason.
An increase in police officers was part of the Governments response to the tsunami.
Last week, the Government said it would increase the number and length of the two-day checks that are required before issuing the new plate.