In an effort to make greener cars cheaper for New Zealanders, the Government plans to discount the price of imported electric and hybrid vehicles by up to $8000. However, it is also planning to add a new fee of up to $3000 on the importation of vehicles with the highest greenhouse gas emissions. With many businesses relying on such "gas guzzlers" for their livelihood, The Country's Jamie Mackay quizzed acting Prime Minister Winston Peters on whether this plan is fair on the farmers and tradies of New Zealand.
Mackay: Let's start with electric vehicles acting Prime Minister. You're supposedly a champion of the provinces, what are you going to do to help out the Northland farmer or the West Coast tradie who really actually needs a big SUV or double cab ute to do their work? You're penalising these people.
No we're not. The fact of the matter is that there are over 400,000 utes around this country, a lot of them out on farms and used as farming vehicles. They're all going to be exempt because they're all here now. The desire is to bring in vehicles which are far more fuel-efficient so to speak and farmers have got an interest in this outcome as much as anyone else.
The cost will be pretty painless when you think about it and greater utility or greater efficiency on vehicles has the potential to save six to nine thousand dollars for the running costs over the lifetime of that vehicle.
So if farmers were calm about it and not start at shadows which is the National Party's penchant to do, they'll see that this could actually work in their interests.
Listen to the full interview below:
Mackay: Why not just exempt businesses?
Peters: Well if you're going to exempt everybody, then why the ...
Mackay: No, no I said businesses. Not everybody.
Peters: How do you mean exempt businesses?
Mackay: Well I'm talking about farmers chucking another three thousand dollars on for their Ford Ranger ... or the tradies. I get the incentivising people to buy an electric vehicle, but you shouldn't be penalising the productive sector.
Peters: Yeah but look there are 500,000 businesses in this country, and if they're all going to be exempt then no policy will work, and we've got a problem as you well know, and also we've got huge fuel costs which are going from our export dollar which is not sound for our economy as well.
It's in the interests of everybody to see this as beneficial to the economy.
Mackay: Fair enough, you're going to incentivise people and I can get that, ultimately we all need to move in that direction, how we get there is the question, but what happens to all the road user charges for instance, the revenue from the fuel that you're currently garnering. You're going to lose most of that under an electric scenario - or am I wrong there?
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Well as time goes by of course they're just going to pay a full road tax as well, and it's difficult when incentivising it now by exempting them does not mean that once they get on the roads, like in Norway for example, over time that will be a normalised paying outlet by electric car as well, just like the ordinary car. Maybe at a lower rate because these cars in the main tend to be lighter for a start.
What's significant here ... the dollar costs are huge. It's disconnecting or disjointing our balance of payments and those things mean we have to have a modern response. And if we don't do that then I'm afraid we're not going to meet our targets with respect to climate change - which the National Party, you recall, under Paula Bennett and John Key signed up to in Paris. Do you not remember that?
Also in today's interview: Peters defends the coalition government's forestry policy as well as travelling politicians' carbon footprints.