Clean air tests choked by lack of action

By Alistair Sloane

Air pollution from road-going motor vehicles is responsible for about 255 premature deaths in New Zealand each year. Photo / Richard Robinson
Air pollution from road-going motor vehicles is responsible for about 255 premature deaths in New Zealand each year. Photo / Richard Robinson

Emission tests could save money and lives, Government told

The motoring industry wants the Government to introduce emissions tests on vehicles as part of its proposed changes to the vehicle licensing system.

The Motor Trade Association and Motor Industry Association say emission tests could save money and lives.

The call follows a study into the effects of health and air pollution prepared for the Health Research Council, the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry for the Environment and the NZ Transport Agency.

It found that air pollution from road-going motor vehicles is responsible for about 255 premature deaths in New Zealand each year, and put the annual social costs at about $940 million.

The report showed that air pollution from man-made causes accounted for just over half of all premature deaths, and road-going motor vehicles were responsible for 22 per cent.

MIA chief executive Perry Kerr said the industry had been pushing for emissions tests for some time.

"New Zealand is the only country with an emission standard but no emission testing regime," he said.

The MTA says Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee's willingness to consider options - "as long as they result in reducing costs while maintaining safety" - clears the way for emissions testing to be included in the reforms.

Spokesman Ian Stronach said: "We will be asking the Government to give serious consideration to emission testing for all road-going vehicles.

"As this issue has such a significant effect on New Zealanders, especially when compared with the 284 deaths on our roads last year from motor vehicle accidents, the MTA believes that it merits greater consideration by officials.

"It seems likely that it (emissions tests) could conceivably save lives as well as a considerable amount of money - isn't that what everyone wants?"

Vehicles registered in New Zealand for the first time - new and used imports - must meet the emissions standards of their country of origin.

But there is no system to monitor exhaust emissions.

Says Stronach: "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 ageing vehicle fleet by world standards."

The report also noted that not being able to robustly discuss nitrogen dioxide exposure means the results probably underestimate the effects of motor vehicle-related air pollution on health.

The Government is looking at ways to lower annual compliance costs of vehicle licensing, including warrant of fitness and registrations, while preserving safety and the environment.

The MoT and NZTA have been meeting transport groups to thrash out proposed changes. New-car distributors have also been canvassed.

One of the proposals is to exempt new cars from a warrant of fitness for the first three years after which they would be tested with every other passenger car on the road.

The present six-monthly WoF on cars more than six years old is expected to be scrapped.

The health and air pollution report comes less than a year after an NZTA survey showed New Zealand has the highest road death rate in the OECD for 15- to 17-year-olds, and the fourth-highest road death rate for 18- to 20-year-olds.

The survey was part of the Safe Teen Driver campaign to improve the poor road safety record of teenage drivers.

It showed that many parents are happy to turn their teens loose on the road without enough supervised driving practise.

International research recommends teen drivers have at least 120 hours of supervised driving before going solo, but the survey showed that only 12 per cent of New Zealand parents knew that their teens should have that much practise before applying for a restricted licence.

And nearly 24 per cent of parents are happy for their teen to apply for a restricted licence with as little as 40 hours of supervised practise.

It showed that while most parents are keen to help their teenage children pass their restricted test, few paretns are keen on committing to the recommended amount of practise and supervision.

- NZ Herald

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