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Cleaner cars one key to tackling killer air

Cleaner cars one key to tackling killer Auckland air

A new official report showing hundreds of Aucklanders are dying prematurely because of air polluted by vehicles should be a call to action to tighten up emission standards.

The New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development says the Auckland Regional Public Health Service's report dramatically underlines the need for the Government to act on a policy proposal to raise emission standards for vehicles, especially imported ones.

The Business Council whose 54 member companies' annual sales of $33 billion equate to more than 28% of gross domestic product says one of the dirtiest vehicle fleets in the world is having an impact more deadly than the road toll.

Business Council Chief Executive Peter Neilson says the Government is now considering a proposal from his organisation which includes not only cash incentives of up to $3000 for people buying fuel efficient, low emission vehicles, but also better emission standards.

The Business Council is urging the adoption by 2008 of the latest Euro IV equivalent vehicle emission standards for new vehicles and used imports.

Australia will adopt Euro-IV standards in 2008 for new models and by 2010 all existing models will have to comply. Imposing better standards on New Zealand imports from 2008 made sense because 95% of New Zealand's used vehicle imports come from Japan, which adopted the Euro IV standard in 2000.

"Adopting the new standard on used imports in 2008, along with climate friendly car incentives, will make sure there is little price impact and most people can continue to afford to buy these vehicles," Mr Neilson says.

Nationally, research indicated 970 people over the age of 30 were dying prematurely each year after being exposed to fuel particles in the air.

Auckland and the rest of the country need to tackle the issue because it might also start to constrain new development.

"There will come a time when resource consents for new developments may not be granted because they'll push areas over their allowable air contamination limits," Mr Neilson says.

Business Council research showed the introduction of cash grants for climate friendly car buyers would make the vehicles viable for companies to buy and 86,000 would come into the fleet each year. The plan is to keep the scheme in place until 40% of the fleet is fuel efficient, low emission. Every 86,000 climate friendly cars entering the fleet will use 86 million litres of fuel less a year $727 million less during their fleet life and cut emissions by millions of tonnes.

"We can't carry on importing ever-older cars, maintaining a sad reputation for having one of the oldest vehicle fleets in the world (11.7 years and rising). In Auckland alone 650,000 vehicles are traveling 8000 million miles a year. We don't have to live with this level of premature deaths and suffering when there's a relatively easy answer at hand to help rapidly clean up the fleet," Mr Neilson says.


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