ON THE ROAD

There are certain aspects of car ownership which politicians continually want to tweak and in doing so, send mixed messages about their respective priorities.

Every car on the road in New Zealand needs to have a current warrant of fitness (the WOF) and a current certificate of registration (Rego). The Rego means your vehicle is legal to be on the road. The WOF means that, at date of issue, the vehicle has satisfied a list of over 60 factors which make it safe to be on the road. You can't renew your Rego without having a current WOF.

Both WOF and Rego have a date of issue which can easily pass the notice of the car owner, who could face a $200 fine for failing to display a current Rego or WOF. Much of the enforcement of these is in the hands of local authority parking wardens. The $200 fine is one of the highest fine levels for any traffic offence and the cynic could suggest that targeting WOF and Rego expiry could be a nice little earner for a council's bottom line. There needs to be a sense of fair play as well as road safety considerations here.

The two systems have different forms of delivery. The annual vehicle licensing system is delivered through NZTA and the vehicle owner is sent a reminder about its potential expiry.

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The system collects the ACC levy, keeps the motor vehicle register updated, and is used for administration of law enforcement, tolling and vehicle recalls. By far the largest component is ACC which is put alongside six cents per litre petrol levy to cover injuries involving motor vehicles on public roads.

Two years ago, the National Government introduced a Vehicle Risk Rating into the ACC part of the Rego. This involved vehicles registered being assessed into one of four bands based on the internationally accepted safety risk rating of the vehicle. While the total collected on behalf of ACC did not change, identified safer vehicles paid a significantly less levy than lower safety rated vehicles.

A recent announcement by the Minister for ACC proposed to scrap this rating because, "It loads more of the burden on to low income people and families because they are generally less able to buy cars with the best safety ratings". This simply creates a confused overall message.

Safer vehicles reduce the cost to ACC, are usually more fuel efficient with a lower carbon footprint and incentivising through the Rego cost makes sense. It also reinforces the current TV advertising campaign encouraging first car buyers to buy the safest vehicle possible.

The WOF system has also been in the news lately for entirely different reasons. This system is delivered through licensed operators in private businesses and is overseen by NZTA as part of its regulatory functions.

The system ensures that our relatively old vehicle fleet with an average age of 14 years is kept to a good standard of road worthiness.

The vehicle inspection regime was somewhat controversially changed about six years ago with newer vehicles required to be inspected less frequently than the then six-monthly inspections.

During the latter half of last year numerous safety issues were raised concerning the integrity of the system. The death of a driver linked to a frayed seatbelt that had recently passed a WOF was a Northland case, and there were numerous others.

As a consequence of an audit around a dozen businesses have had their licence to issue WOFs suspended, more than 20,000 private motorists have been told to get their WOF re-issued and the chief executive of NZTA has resigned.

Good to see someone with some sense of accountability for our horrendous road toll.