Since 1898, when William MacLean of Wellington imported two Benz motor cars, New Zealanders have had a love affair of the deepest intensity with their cars.
As at 2017, recent Census results showed 92.1 per cent of Kiwi households had at least one car, the highest world percentage. Well ahead of second-placed Italy on 89 per cent.
The sheer topography and the long distances between centres of population in New Zealand have driven the need for us all to have cars.
A rail system that was, in its genesis, ambitious but really defeated by topography and low population bases has prevented the development of decent inter-city rail.
Even in the largest cities, rail is still being developed. Experiments with inter-city rail have been, and are still being, tried but we are reluctant to get out of our cars as a population.
Public transport in provincial centres and small towns is difficult to access because of the sprawl of our smaller centres of population.
We live 3km from Whanganui CBD on the top of a hill but there is no nearby public transport at all for us to use except for taxis.
What buses we have are old diesel-chuffers and often pass by empty or with only a few passengers. The bus routes meander from the outer suburbs in some sort of meaningful spider web. Whanganui District Council and Horizons, together with Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, are doing their best to improve the bus service.
Our small but expensive and very modern piece of metal lives happily in its garage most of the week, making occasional trips to town or further afield.
It is quietly depreciating in value as I type. We love our wee red monster with its internal combustion engine that only likes the most expensive brand of petrol.
The boy-racer in me, still not dormant in my 70th year, loves the acceleration and sheer power of the tweaked two-litre engine. I know, I am irresponsible. Bad me.
The car will last us many years. We water and feed it, take it for its regular health checks, pamper it and will likely still be using it for at least the next five years.
At some stage down the track we will have to undergo that experience of having to trade up, knowing we will be getting financially dealt to in the process.
We will also need to make the decision about what motive power we want. Electric vehicles (EVs) are the way to go and we will likely buy one when the time is right, when the range is improved, the batteries are better and charging is more accessible.
We will also not want to pay telephone numbers, either. While most of our travel is within our Whanganui, we do travel very long distances to see family and friends, so want certainty of assured range.
New Zealanders are not used to being constrained in their travel; it is against our culture and our love of accessing our beautiful land. Norway, a country apparently of some similarities to us, is going gangbusters with electric vehicles to the extent that internal combustion engine (ICE) cars may well be gone by 2025.
Can we free-spirited Kiwis become like our steady, sensible Scandinavian cousins and leave our ICE cars behind? Our vehicle fleet, while huge, includes cars of all ages.
I cannot see ICE cars being phased out in New Zealand for some time yet, simply because the price of changing technology will be overwhelming for many.
There is already a second-hand EV car market but even second-hand cars cost more than most brand-new ICE models.
Also there is some disquiet about where all those batteries go and about what state a battery is in by the time a second-hand EV hits the car-yard. Replacement batteries are not cheap.
As time goes by, many of the concerns mentioned above will be addressed by improving technology. It is exciting. The prices will come down in time but may still be a reach too far for many in our community to consider.
Norway has been on this journey since 1989 and has a whole suite of incentives for owners to change technology, including no purchase/import taxes, exemption from VAT upon purchase, no annual road tax, free or rebated municipal parking for EVs and access to bus lanes.
Our Government really needs to step up if EVs are to become the dominant technology within the next 10 to 15 years.
We still need motorways, parking buildings and carparks.
The current mania about cycle lanes and walking is fine in the big CBDs, but try that in rural or small-town New Zealand or if one is ill or disabled.