Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has defended the decision to introduce a feebate scheme, abandoning it in 2019 and leaving it off Labour's 2020 election campaign policy platform.
After the feebates scheme was unveiled on Sunday, National MP Michael Woodhouse accused Labour of introducing a "tax by stealth" by imposing fees on petrol cars without campaigning on it.
In September, Ardern had said the "feebates" scheme was not part of Labour's climate policy, and instead it would focus on clean car standards – a system to ensure vehicle importers were increasing the proportion of clean cars they brought into the country.
Yesterday, she said while the scheme was put "into hiatus" under the last government, it subsequently become clear it was needed in recommendations by the Productivity Commission and the Climate Change Commission.
She said the Ministry of Transport had also advised that some form of incentives would be needed for the clean car standards to be a success.
"So one part of the jigsaw started calling for another part of the jigsaw to join it, and you have to hear that."
She pointed to changes in the scheme compared to the 2019 version, including providing for small discounts for those buying hybrid cars rather than only electric cars, and capping the price at which the discount will be given to cars less than $80,000.
The scheme will see car buyers face fees of up to up to $5875 on new petrol cars, and $2875 on used cars. The revenue will be used to fund rebates of up to $8,625 for people who buy new electric cars, and lower rebates for hybrids.
The scheme has also reignited debate about whether SUVs and utes were work vehicles or fashion choices for city dwellers.
The top two imports into New Zealand are both utes – the Ford Ranger and the Toyota Hilux – and National and Act have argued the new fees they will face are unfair on the farmers and tradespeople who need them for work.
Fees of about $2,900 will apply to those utes from January next year and Federated Farmers has called for a waiver on those fees for work purposes until electric options are available.
Green MP Julie Ann Genter tweeted that the Ford Ranger, the most popular ute in New Zealand, was advertised as "all about lifestyle and status for men who want to feel more masculine" rather than as a work vehicle.
She later clarified she was not arguing that the utes were not used as work vehicles by some.
"I was tweeting about how they are marketed, not a statement about everyone using one."
Transport Minister Michael Wood also weighed in. Asked by Mike Hosking on ZB on Monday about people needing utes for work, Wood said the problems was people in cities buying "bigger and dirtier" vehicles.
"The areas in which we are seeing the most of those vehicles coming in are in Thorndon, Khandallah and Remuera."
Act leader and Epsom MP David Seymour said it would come as a surprise to many residents of Remuera that Wood thought they drove the Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger utes. He said the bigger concern was that the subsidy would result in the prices of electric cars being pushed up to effectively absorb that subsidy.
According to Motor Industry Association figures, the top-five-selling new vehicles in New Zealand in 2020 were the Ford Ranger, the Toyota Hilux, the RAV 4 (has a hybrid option), the Mitsubishi Triton and the Kia Sportage.
The Crown car fleet which drives ministers around has electric and hybrid SUVs - including Audi e-tron fully battery-electric (BEV) SUVs, and three new BMW X5 plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) SUVs.