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New Zealanders encouraged to "choke the smoke"

Hon Judith Tizard Associate Minister of Transport

Media release 9 August 2006

New Zealanders encouraged to "choke the smoke"

Associate Transport Minister Judith Tizard today launched a multimedia campaign to encourage New Zealanders to "choke the smoke" to reduce vehicle emissions.

"New Zealanders love cars but their emissions especially harm the young, the old and the already sick, and make respiratory and heart conditions worse, and damage our resistance to colds and flu," the Minister says.

"The effects of vehicle emissions are estimated to cost the country $442 million a year. Vehicle emissions also contribute to the death of nearly 400 New Zealanders every year.

"We need to act - our health and our clean green and sustainable environment depend on it.

Radio advertisements and billboards kick off the Choke the smoke campaign, which will also feature images on car park ramps and posters on car park barrier arms.

"This campaign is one of many measures by this Labour-led government to reduce vehicle pollution and focuses on the use of cars. By the end of the year a "visible smoke check" will be introduced and carried out as part of a vehicle's warrant or certificate of fitness."

Other government initiatives to reduce vehicle emissions have focused on fuel and vehicle standards. They include revised fuel specifications in line with European standards; imported vehicles are required to meet an approved emission standard; and smokey vehicles are ticketed by the Police.

"We're also looking at future options including more sophisticated vehicle tests and renewable transport fuels.

"As Aucklanders we need to do our bit and get our cars tuned and serviced. We need to take our foot off the accelerator. We need to stop using the car for short trips and start walking - or use walking school buses or public transport.

"Over 40% of Auckland car trips are for just 3-5 kms. And over 50% of Auckland school children are driven to school each day."

"Together we can choke the smoke."

Contact: Hazel Dobbie, Press Secretary, 021 227 9871,

"Smoke the Choke" campaign Questions & Answers

"Choke the smoke" aims to highlight the damage vehicle emissions cause to health and the environment and to encourage New Zealanders to take action to help "choke the smoke".

What's the purpose of the campaign? The campaign will provide information about the effects of vehicle emissions and also encourage owners to reduce vehicle pollution by tuning their cars, car pooling and using public transport.

It will include information about the next step in reducing vehicle emissions, the "visible smoke check", which will be introduced before the end of the year. The check will be carried out during a vehicle's warrant or certificate of fitness.

What does the campaign involve? Radio advertisements and billboards kick off the campaign, which will also feature images on car park ramps and posters on car park barrier arms.

Campaign messages will include 'living with untuned cars, it's exhausting', with an accompanying visual of a clean, blue-skied New Zealand city showing through a fog of exhaust fumes. The message, 'there's a little bit of your untuned car in every body', will be accompanied by a visual showing tiny cars in a person's blood stream, going into and away from the heart.

The first stage of radio advertisements will encourage people to tune their cars, while later radio ads will provide details about the visible smoke check, and the benefits of car pooling and taking the bus.

Why do we need a campaign? Exhaust emissions include particulates, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, ozone and benzene. Research suggests the most damaging of these to people's health and wellbeing are particulates and carbon monoxide. Associated mainly with diesel engines, particulates are very fine particles that settle in the bronchial pathways and lungs. They make a number of respiratory problems such as asthma and bronchitis much worse.

Carbon monoxide is mainly associated with petrol vehicles. It makes heart disease worse, causes drowsiness and has been linked with learning difficulties. The effects of carbon monoxide are greater in cities where there are high traffic and congestion rates. According to a 2002 Ministry of Transport commissioned study by NIWA, (see almost 400 people die prematurely each year because of vehicle emissions and the estimated cost to the Government of the health effects of vehicle emissions is $442 million.

Another harmful gas for the environment is carbon dioxide (CO2). It is a greenhouse gas which is being held responsible for climate change. About 40 percent of our carbon dioxide emissions come from transport, mainly private cars. Transport is one of the biggest growth areas of New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions. Keeping their vehicles well maintained is one of the steps that vehicle owners can take to ensure they lower their CO2 emissions and ensure that emissions of other harmful substances are also reduced.

What is the visible smoke test? It's anticipated that the visible smoke test will be introduced by the end of the year. It will become part of every vehicle's warrant or certificate of fitness. Inspectors will check the smoke coming out of the exhaust by running the car for five seconds while the engine idles and for another five seconds when the engine speed is increased to half its maximum – about 2,500 revs per minute.

They will be checking to see if the exhaust coming out of the tail pipe is clear, or if there is smoke that is visible and dense which means the vehicle needs attention. If a vehicle emits visible exhaust, it is an indication the vehicle is not running properly, resulting in higher maintenance costs to the owner and negative effects on the environment. Poorly maintained vehicles can release as much as 10 times the emissions as a well maintained vehicle.

If the vehicle fails the smoke test, it will need repairing, possibly just a tune-up, before it can be driven on the road again. How else can vehicle emissions be reduced? The Ministry of Transport is committed to reducing vehicle emissions and is working on achieving this in a number of ways. The visible smoke check builds on existing measures to control motor vehicle emissions and improve air quality, and will pave the way for more sophisticated testing of vehicle emissions that might be introduced in the future.

Other measures to reduce vehicle emissions include:

• the existing 10-second smoky vehicle rule – it is an offence to emit excessive on-road vehicle smoke for more than 10 seconds • the introduction in January 2004 of a requirement for vehicles entering the country to meet an approved emissions standard • the introduction in January 2006 of a requirement for revised diesel fuel specifications to be met, reducing the sulphur content in diesel fuels to 50 parts per million, making New Zealand diesel cleaner and bringing it in to line with European standards. This reduction is expected to substantially reduce emissions from diesel vehicles already in New Zealand.

The Ministry of Transport is working toward removing the barriers to the introduction of renewable transport fuels – including ethanol petrol blends and bio-diesel – as biofuels generally have lower levels of harmful emissions.

The Government has also requested the Ministry of Transport to investigate the costs and benefits of requiring imported-used vehicles to have been built to specific minimum standards. It will report back on this at the end of this year.


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