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Time for serious action on vehicle pollution

Time for serious action on vehicle pollution

The revelation that New Zealand sits at the bottom of the OECD table in vehicle pollution statistics is of great concern to the Motor Industry Association, the organisation which represents local new vehicle distributors.

Michael Walsh, a US-based consultant who advises Governments and international organisations such as the World Bank on air safety issues, expressed astonishment during a recent visit that a country which promotes itself on its ‘clean-green’ image could be the only country in the OECD that lacks any legislation controlling vehicle exhaust emissions.

It is estimated that at least 500 people in New Zealand die prematurely each year due to the effects of vehicle pollution, mainly in the form of carbon monoxide and carbon particulates from diesel vehicles. According to Mr. Walsh, there are more than 35 days per year that vehicle pollution levels in Auckland exceed internationally-acceptable guidelines. This compares with New York City, where it has been several years since the guidelines have been breached. The difference is due to the use of low-sulphur diesel and low-benzene petrol, combined with rigid exhaust emission control systems on vehicles.

Although new cars sold in New Zealand have been virtually 100% compliant (on a voluntary basis) with overseas emission control legislation since 1997, there is no legislation requiring effective pollution control equipment on the tens of thousands of used vehicles imported each year. Neither is there an ongoing emission check as part of the Warrant of Fitness test.

“It is time for the Government to stop pussy-footing on the subject of vehicle pollution,” said Perry Kerr, CEO of the Motor Industry Association. “Bringing all imported vehicles into line with an emissions test at the border, together with incorporating an emissions test into the WOF, could be done with the stroke of a pen. Bringing our fuel up to standard will take longer, but Marsden Point should be encouraged to produce low sulphur diesel and petrol in advance of the Petroleum Products Specifications Regulation changes. At that point, the Government should amend the regulations to ensure that imported refined fuels meet the same standard.”

The Motor Industry Association totally supports the comments made by Michael Walsh. “It is the ultimate hypocrisy to be signing up to the Kyoto Protocol when we continue to subject New Zealand (and the ozone layer) to the effects of the dirtiest vehicle exhausts in the Western World” said Mr. Kerr.

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