Government should postpone car emissions regulations, says expert

Friday 11 November 2011, 7:26AM
By Dog & Lemon Guide

The government should postpone car emissions regulations planned for next year, says the car review website editor Clive Matthew-Wilson says the existing regulations – aimed at reducing the pollution produced by cars – are having exactly the opposite effect.

“When the existing emissions regulations were bought in, the government assumed that older second-hand cars in New Zealand would be replaced by newer second-hand cars from Japan. The government believed that these newer cars would put out less pollution, while old cars would go off the road. This hasn’t really happened. Not only is there a shortage of suitable second-hand cars from Japan, but also the old rubbish is staying on the road in New Zealand, due to a shortage of affordable replacements.”

“Before the existing emissions regulations were bought in, the steady flow of affordable second-hand imports from Japan meant that older cars in New Zealand were quickly abandoned because it was cheaper to buy a more recent model than to fix an old one. Now that the flow of affordable cars from Japan has been reduced, older cars are staying on the road for far longer than they should. These older cars are putting out far more pollution than newer models and they’re far less safe.”

“The government also assumed that tighter Warrant of Fitness regulations would ensure that old cars were put off the road. Again, this hasn’t happened. The tougher WOF regulations have simply meant that more vehicles are being driven illegally. A vehicle can’t be registered unless it has a WOF, so the end result of tougher WOF regulations is tens of thousands of vehicles that have neither WOF nor registration.”

A recent survey by the Motor Trade Association showed that 9% of all the vehicles surveyed had neither a current warrant of fitness (WOF) nor were currently licensed.

Matthew-Wilson adds:

“It’s easy to blame the drivers of these cars, but the government must share equal blame. The entire New Zealand transport system is based around cars and trucks, with very few alternatives. “

“Most New Zealanders live in a different suburb than the one they work in. New Zealand’s public transport is abysmal by international standards. In rural areas there’s often no public transport at all. So, people either travel by car or they can’t travel at all.”

“If the government is going to base the transport system around cars, it needs to ensure that safe and affordable cars are available for the people who need them. Clearly, this is not the case, and the situation is going to get far worse as the supply of cars that can be legally imported from Japan is cut back to a trickle when new regulations come into force next year.”

Japan’s tsunami in March, which cut vehicle production in Japan by 50% and forced the replacement of thousands of vehicles within Japan, has already created a severe shortage of second-hand vehicles suitable for export to New Zealand.

There has been an increase in second-hand vehicle imports from Japan in recent months as dealers attempt to stock up in advance of the new regulations. However, Matthew-Wilson believes that once this stock is sold, it is likely that there will be a severe shortage of second-hand imported vehicles.

Matthew-Wilson believes that the emissions regulations should be postponed for two years, and instead, that imported second-hand cars should be required to have at least a four star crash test rating.