Thursday, 21 Oct 2021

Banned in NZ: The car licence plates you won’t see on our roads

Warning: Some language may offend

The letter combinations blocked from licence plates due to their ability to cause offence can now be revealed – but it hasn’t stopped creative Kiwis from getting around the rules with other dubious words.

The Herald contacted Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency after a massive reaction to a Hawke’s Bay man’s effort to have the combination “NGR” put on the banned list.

James Crow said he was shocked to find the letters when he went to pick up a new plate for a recently purchased car.

“We arrived at the AA Centre to receive it and as we drove in, and my wife saw it first and said ‘oh my, we can’t have that on the front of our car’,” Crow told RNZ.

Crow, a Green party candidate in Napier at the last general election, asked why this run of plates had slipped through.

“If there have been many, many number plates that have been avoided being produced in the past with different three letter words or different three letter analogies, why did this one slip through? ‘Cause it felt like if it’s going to really offend or hurt a few people in the public, it’s not necessary.”

Waka Kotahi NZTA director of land transport Kane Patena told the Herald that 999 of the “NGR” plates had been made but replacements would be offered to anyone who was offended.

Senior media manager Andy Knackstedt revealed that there was a banned list however – and provided an example of some of the letter combinations that had been withheld due to their potential to cause offence:


Knackstedt said he was unable to provide a full list but noted that there are several thousand combinations that won’t be issued because they contain letters that can be confused with other letters or numbers.

“That includes any plates with an ‘I’, an ‘O’ or a ‘V’, as these can be confused with the numbers 1 and 0, and the letter U,” he said.

He said the criteria used to withhold combination included consideration of whether the combinations are offensive, derogatory, obscene or promote violence, discrimination or bias.

He told the Herald that the same criteria was used to assess applications for personalised plates.

But the rules haven’t stopped risque and controversial plates hitting our streets.

Some combination that might raise an eyebrow include the busy motorist who is “DTF365”

Another hopeful driver has “DM ME X” and reportedly includes her Instagram handle beneath the plate.

There is also a “SQERTA” and a “4NKATA”.

While the KiwiPlates site shows that “WHTPWR” is not available, “BLKPWR” has already been taken, as has “BALLS” and “3SOME”.

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