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Associate Transport Minister Judith Tizard has admitted the government failed to seriously consider alternatives before implementing its new vehicle emissions rule that will raise the average age of New Zealand’s vehicle fleet, increase the average cost of cars, and result in more air pollution, potentially costing lives.

In last night’s 60 Minutes programme, air quality scientists stated that the benefits of buying 1,000 new cars and running them properly were overwhelmed by one badly tuned diesel truck or bus.

When asked whether anyone had suggested the government’s vehicle emissions testing policy therefore concentrate on trucks in the existing fleet, Ms Tizard twice answered “no”.  When asked for an assurance she would consider the issue, Ms Tizard dismissed the issue stating: “I’m very happy to, but what we already know is that the major problem is the commercial fleet.”

Chief executive of the Independent Motor Vehicle Dealers’ Association (IMVDA), David Vinsen, said it was outrageous the minister hadn’t already considered the obvious option of focusing on trucks in the existing fleet, and that it illustrated the minister has not made her decisions with an open mind.

“It is quite clear from this latest admission that the government’s decision is irrational and unreasonable, and one that no sensible person who had applied their mind to air-pollution issues could have arrived at.

“The minister has already admitted that the government’s policy is going to increase the average age of the fleet and raise the average price of cars.  Now she is admitting she didn’t even consider obvious alternatives that the experts say could save lives.”

Mr Vinsen said the Minister’s comments were obviously an issue that need to be considered in other forums.

The IMVDA is continuing to lobby the government to develop a comprehensive vehicle fleet management policy.  It recommends its five-point Clean Air Plan be used as a starting point, which argues the government should:

1.    Enforce all current rules across the whole vehicle fleet at inspection (WoF and CoF), and at the roadside

2.    Introduce scientific emissions testing for all vehicles in the fleet

3.    Encourage the scrapping of older, unsafe, dirty vehicles with tougher enforcement and economic incentives

4.    Introduce incentives to encourage people to buy cleaner vehicles, as proposed by the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development

5.    Do these things NOW

Mr Vinsen said the plan would save lives.  He emphasised that testing would apply both to the existing fleet and to all fresh imports.

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