No ‘cruising’ or exhaust smoke: NZ’s most bizarre road rules revealed

·News Reporter
·3-min read

There’s no denying that Australia and New Zealand share a lot in common whether it is in culture, sport or everyday ideals in life.

It’s not too surprising to find then that our cousins across the Tasman take a generally similar system of road rules to us, but surprisingly there are some lesser-known regulations which are significantly different.

For many Aussies, driving in NZ feels similar to driving at home so it's worth making yourself aware of the bizarre rules which are different “across the ditch". So exactly how do the rules differ?

Road set against mountains. Source: Getty Images
New Zealand has many similar road rules to many Australian states, but there are significant differences. Source: Getty Images

A case of déjà vu

When it comes to legislation, New Zealand’s traffic authorities maintain a lot of similar rules as to what you may find in Australia.

For example, they take a similar stance to any actions that could cause unnecessary noise. This could be from unnecessarily beeping your car horn or playing music too loudly from your speakers.

Furthermore, drivers need to refrain from getting distracted when behind the wheel whether they are eating, doing their makeup or trying to keep their kids quiet.

There are also similarities in rules surrounding speed, as drivers in NZ can be punished for the travelling too slowly on the roads with offenders hit with a fine of $NZ150 ($AU145).

So if you have a solid grasp of the rules back at home, you will be fairly safe when you hit the roads in New Zealand in most cases, but there are some exceptions.

Knowing the differences

Despite many rules being similar to Australia, some rules are different when driving in New Zealand.

One of the differences comes when it comes to protecting the environment. For example, cars in New Zealand can be pulled over if they have plumes of smoke pouring from the exhaust for any longer than 10 seconds.

Scenic road towards Mt Cook
Drivers holidaying in NZ need to avoid overloading their roof with cargo as it's against the law. Source:Getty Images

If you get caught breaking this law, drivers will not only cop a fine but the car will also be deemed unroadworthy and immediately banned from being used on the road.

There are also strict limits in regards to what you can take on the roof of your car as authorities don’t allow anything overhanging a vehicle by a length of four metres or a width of 1.25m.

Anyone caught breaking this rule could be hit with a minimum fine of $NZ600 ($AU580) so it could be a major thing to look for when transporting surfboards, skis or other large items.

You could also be in trouble if you end up getting lost as NZ road laws can punish anyone cruising along the same stretch of road.

The “cruising” rule gives police the authority to fine drivers $NZ150 ($AU145) if they are repeatedly covering the same stretch of the road in the same direction.

A different system

It is also worth bearing in mind that if you get issued with demerit points in NZ, the system is very different. 

NZ laws base demerit points on a higher level with an amount of 100 points resulting in a ban from the roads.

This is very different to what is found in Australia where point levels are much lower with a limit of 12 or 13 resulting in a ban from the roads.

Also, NZ doesn’t split their rules between different regions or shires like Australia.

It means their rules can be applied anywhere in the country, rather than having regional variations as we do back home.

Paying attention to the small differences between our two country's road rules will help you enjoy a road trip amid the stunning vistas of our closest neighbour.

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