The Ministry of Transport has apologised to National Leader Simon Bridges for having blocked more than 1000 submissions opposing the clean car fee-bate scheme from a website run by National Party and says their views will be taken into account.
Chief executive Peter Mersi said it was wrong for legitimate submissions to be flagged as spam during the public consultation on the proposed policy.
The ministry only became aware that the submissions came from a legitimate source following media statements [on Sunday] from the National Party.
"We will be conducting a thorough internal assessment to ensure this situation doesn't happen again and I will be writing to the Leader of the Opposition to extend my personal apologies for this lapse."
Mersi said the views of those who made submissions though the Campaignnow website would be considered as part of the analysis process.
Bridges said it was disappointing to have ended up in that situation, "but credit to the Ministry of Transport for acknowledging its error and taking steps to correct it."
National set up a website, Campaignnow, to oppose the policy which imposes levies or offers subsidies on imported vehicles, depending on their emissions, at first point of sale.
The website included a form to submit on the policy including fields for individual name and email address. Submitters could send the form letter, or write their own views.
So while they were sent through the same website address, the addresses provided of the 1644 submitters would have been different.
The MOT blocked the submissions after receiving 500 from the same digital address – and treated them as one submission.
National discovered through an Official Information Act request to Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter on a progress report that officials had blocked the form submissions and called them spam.
The progress report cited large numbers of submissions agreeing with the policy.
Bridges said on Sunday that the submission had been deliberately left out because they opposed the policy and called it an affront to democracy.
The consultation was over a proposal launched by Genter on July 9 to apply charges or subsidies for new and used car imports, depending on their emissions profile, at their first point of sale.
It is designed to encourage more motorists to drive more vehicles with cleaner emissions.
For new vehicles, it includes a levy of up to $3000 for heavy emission vehicles and a subsidy of up to $8000 for low emission vehicles.
For used cars, there would be a fee of up to $1500 and a subsidy up to $2600.
The Ministry of Transport set up a public consultation which closed on August 20.
National set up a website opposing the plan and drew up a petition signed by 14,060 signed to oppose the plan that it calls a "car tax."
Genter said the National Party claims against the Clean Car Discount included claims about the policy which the Advertising Standards Authority had since ruled to be misleading and likely to deceive and confuse.
Bridges said the policy would hurt farmers, tradespeople and low-income earners for whom low-emission vehicles were still too expensive.
"Given the large number of submissions through our website and the 14,060 signatures we collected to stop Labour's car tax, a lot of New Zealanders feel the same way.
"We hope Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter will take all of this feedback on board and do the right thing by scrapping the car tax."