When the Government called for submissions on changes to vehicle licensing, including a proposal to change warrant of fitness inspections from six-monthly to annually, I didn't think there would be such a frenzied response.

After all, what does it matter? Six-monthly? Yearly? Either's fine with me, although it would be more convenient to organise an appointment with a vehicle-testing station just once a year.

But the reaction to the proposal has been extraordinary. Racing car driver Greg Murphy, who always seemed such a sanguine soul - well, you'd have to be a fairly cool character doing the job he does - fronted a press conference for the Motor Trade Association this week and claimed the Government would have blood on its hands if it opted for annual WoF checks.

Strong stuff. He has appeared in television and radio ads warning that young people who generally drive older vehicles will be the casualties of any change to vehicle licensing, and pointing people to a petition organised by the automotive industry group MTA, called "Hands Off the WoF".


The MTA says six-monthly checks are the best way for people to determine whether or not their cars are safe, and if the Government insists on going ahead with annual checks for cars under 12-years-old it could lead to up to 80 more deaths on our roads a year.

I think Murphy is a credible person. I refuse to believe he would front a campaign like this simply because the MTA wrote out a cheque. I think he genuinely believes that six-monthly checks are saving lives.

But the Automobile Association says the MTA claims are merely scaremongering. It points out that in 40 per cent of fatal crashes involving vehicle defects, the car had no warrant of fitness anyway.

The AA claims that the issue is all about the MTA protecting its business.

Annual checks will see a loss of jobs and a loss of revenue, and that's really what's behind the campaign, it says.

I would be appalled if the MTA and Murphy were using such emotive language simply to maintain members' profits.

Surely they must believe there's a real safety issue.

At the same time, cars manufactured over the past decade are vastly different to the old clunkers made decades ago. They're much safer than they used to be, so perhaps a yearly warrant would suffice.

And, as the AA says, people who choose not to take their cars in for a warrant will continue to flout the law, whether it's a six-monthly check or a yearly one.

The Government has put forward other options to consider as well, including inspection based on the distance a vehicle has travelled.

If you want to have your say, you have 10 days to do so.

Go to www.transport.govt.nz and make a submission.