Radical WOF changes: Testing times ahead

By Alastair Sloane

Exclusive: The WoF system may be overhauled, reports Alastair Sloane

Opponents say the proposed changes would have a significant affect on Vehicle Inspection NZ, Vehicle Testing NZ stations and small garages. Photo / File
Opponents say the proposed changes would have a significant affect on Vehicle Inspection NZ, Vehicle Testing NZ stations and small garages. Photo / File

The Government could scrap the need for a Warrant of Fitness on new cars under changes to the vehicle licensing regime.

New cars would first be checked two years after being sold, followed by inspections at four and six years. Thereafter, they would need a yearly Warrant of Fitness. The current six-monthly WoF on cars over six years old could be moved out to 12 months.

The changes are part of government proposals to lower the annual compliance costs of the WoF, vehicle registrations and the certificate of fitness and transport services licensing systems.

"The systems involve significant time and cost for New Zealanders," says a conversation paper signed by Ministry of Transport chief executive Martin Mathews and NZ Transport Agency acting chief executive Stephen Town.

"The challenge that the government has set is to explore opportunities to lower compliance costs while achieving similar or improved safety and environmental outcomes.

"In the coming weeks and months we need to ask some hard questions about the three systems. Why were they introduced? Are they still relevant? If so, are there better ways to achieve the desired outcomes?"

The MoT and NZTA are meeting with transport groups to thrash out the proposals. They meet again next week to prepare a report for cabinet, which will put together a public discussion paper to be released in September.

"That's when everyone will have their say," said a transport official, who did not wish to be named. "It's acknowledged that the WoF system, for instance, is hugely over-regulated.

"But there will have to be a huge change in attitude from the general public about changing the time limit on WoFs."

Supporters of a two-year check believe the current need for a WoF on new cars is ridiculous. "Why should a new car that has been passed fit by the carmaker and inspection people need a WoF before it goes on the road?" said one man.

"Why do we need to tie up valuable police time with roadside inspections? Police would be better employed working on serious crime."

Opponents say changes would put people out of work, affecting Vehicle Inspection NZ, Vehicle Testing NZ stations and small garages.

"The neighbourhood corner garage relies on six-monthly WoFs for its bread and butter," said one man. "Switching to a year on older cars and two years on new ones would force many of the smaller garages to close."

The transport official said VINZ doesn't do anywhere near the business it once did. "It was set up to handle the used imports flooding into the country," he said.

"They had to be complied to get them on the road, but thereafter the role of VINZ was reduced. Owners of used imports would go elsewhere for WoFs."

The official said the thinking from the meeting is that the six-monthly WoF will definitely be changed to an annual check. He said there was even talk of a three-yearly check on new cars, or two in the car's first six years on the road.

The discussion paper says analysis of the vehicle roadworthiness inspection system suggests that it may not be delivering the best balance between compliance costs and safety benefits.

"Vehicle owners rely too much on having a WoF or CoF instead of taking responsibility for keeping their vehicles in a roadworthy state," it says.

"Owners should be encouraged to maintain their vehicles between inspections through targeted advertising, advice and on-road enforcement focused on visible high-risk faults such as tyre condition, lights, glazing and modifications - with a greater focus on encouraging spending on maintenance rather than fines."

The transport services licensing system was set up 80 years ago as a means of economic control and railway business protection, says the discussion paper. Changes in the 1980s removed rail protection.

- NZ Herald

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