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Car culture costing NZ dearly

31 January 2005
Car culture costing NZ dearly

Green Co-Leader Rod Donald is calling on the Government to rapidly implement transport policies that reduce New Zealand's dependence on imported oil and cars, following the announcement today of a $4.16 billion trade deficit last year.

At $5.4 billion, vehicles, parts, and accessories are New Zealand's largest category of imports, up 7.4 percent on 2003, while imports of petrol and petroleum products increased 21.7 percent to $3.5 billion in 2004.

"At the urging of the Greens, Labour has taken a number of positive transport initiatives," Mr Donald said. "But the latest trade statistics reinforce that the Government needs to do much more, much faster to make land transport accessible, affordable, and sustainable.

"New Zealand has one of the highest levels of vehicle ownership and per capita fuel consumption in the world because successive local and central governments have not invested anything like enough in fast, efficient public transport within and between our towns.

"The real crunch will come when the Kiwi dollar drops to a more realistic level. Petrol pump prices will rise rapidly and the trade deficit will get even worse."

Mr Donald said it was inevitable that the New Zealand dollar would reduce in value because the record trade deficit was exacerbating our historically high current account deficit.

"The only reason the Kiwi continues to fly is because of record commodity export prices. It is doubtful that these will last. In any case, despite high export prices, total export receipts are still down $1.9 billion on what they were three years ago.

"The Government has a narrow window of opportunity to refashion the New Zealand economy away from export/import dependence and towards self-reliance, especially in transport."

ENDS

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