The Motor Trade Association (MTA) says that including in-service emission testing as part of government's current Vehicle Licensing Reform review has the potential to save not just significant amounts of money, but people's lives as well.
A report (Updated Health and Air Pollution in New Zealand Study) into the effects of health and air pollution prepared for the Health Research Council, Ministry of Transport, Ministry for the Environment and the NZ Transport Agency and released last week shows that air pollution from road-going motor vehicles is responsible for around 255 premature deaths amongst New Zealanders each year.
Total social costs for this were estimated at around $940 million a year. The report showed that air pollution from man-made causes accounted for just over half of all premature deaths, with road-going motor vehicles responsible for 22 percent of those.
While not specifically included in the initial scope of the review into Vehicle Licensing, Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee's willingness to consider options "as long as they result in reducing costs while maintaining safety" clears the way for in-service emissions testing of some form to be included as part of the reforms.
As this issue has such a significant effect on New Zealanders, especially when compared to the 284 deaths on our roads last year from motor vehicle accidents, MTA believes that it merits greater consideration by officials.
MTA spokesman Ian Stronach said "We will be asking government to give serious consideration to the idea of introducing in-service emission testing for all road-going vehicles. Based on this report it seems likely that it could conceivably save lives as well as a considerable amount of money, isn't that what everyone wants?"
New Zealand currently mandates that vehicles registered for the first time (new and first time used imports) meet specified emissions standards, but there is no formal testing thereafter of our vehicle fleet.
Many overseas countries employ regular vehicle emissions testing as part of their overall vehicle inspection programmes; introducing testing in New Zealand would be a logical next step given that at an average age of more than 13 years, we have an old and rapidly aging vehicle fleet by world standards.
The report also notes that the research is based around PM10 (particulate matter less than 10 micrometres in size) rather than the internationally accepted PM2.5. Furthermore, it adds that not being able to robustly discuss NO2 (nitrogen dioxide) exposure means the results most likely underestimate the health impacts of motor vehicle related air pollution.
With its potential to significantly improve overall health, safety and cost outcomes, MTA will be urging government to include in-service emissions testing as part of its overall Vehicle Licensing Reform package.