by Dr John K Monro
Subject: Import of old 4WDs
Date: 7 February 2005 9:18:53 PM
Dear Mr Hodgson,
I imagine you must have read the article in last week’s Dominion about the import of 36,000 old, used and gas-guzzling 4WDs to New Zealand each year with the same dismay as I did. I find it quite beyond belief that this country, dependent ever more on increasingly expensive imported oil and trying to meet the Kyoto protocol should be importing so many inefficient old vehicles. I write this letter to you in your new role as minister of transport because you must surely agree that the free-for-all in used imports is just not sustainable. These old vehicles, with poor safety features are not only unsafe to the driver and passengers, but also to any unfortunate motorist who happens to collide with one, and they are universally known as good pedestrian killers.
Additionally, because these vehicles are approaching the end of their useful economic life they are likely to be needing to be wrecked after only a few years use on the roads, with the consequent environmental problems associated with such activity. New Zealand is basically becoming a dumping ground for Japan to get rid of their old vehicles, without having to take the responsibility or cost of disposing of them.
I would value you firm assurance that you are committed to legislating very soon to ban these old vehicles from our shores. (Comments in the article such Harry Duynhoven is “looking at” frontal impact legislation and Judith Tizzard is “looking at” emission screening is pathetically indadequate). In addition this country, and your government, just do not seem to have any serious commitment to vehicular fuel efficiency. You have increased the speed that large lorries can travel at. You have no mandatory fuel efficiency goals for different manufacturers. Taxes on petrol and diesel remain far too low. Car manufacturers do not have to quote fuel consumption figures in their advertising. You have no differential taxation or fuels standards for different vehicles. You do not use carbon emissions to calculate the true environmental cost of motoring. Your are still planning to build wasteful motorways in Auckland and elsewhere. Public transport in New Zealand is still very poor. The overnight rail link Auckland — Wellington has gone.
I am extremely frustrated by your government’s lack of understanding and urgency in regard to oil depletion and global warming. Our transport sector uses 40% of our energy consumption — there is an urgent need to utilise this energy more efficiently.
(If you wish to visualise what just one month’s used 4WD imports look like, you are welcome to check out my internet site <http://homepage.mac.com/j.monro> and click on Updates 3. Just seeing this, brings home just how many vehicles are involved.)
Dr John K Monro
Office of Pete Hodgson,
MP Dunedin North,
Minister of Transport, Minister of Commerce, Minister of land Information, Minister of Statistics, Associate minister of Health, Associate Minister for Industry and Regional Development, Convenor Group on Climate Change
I agree with your assessment that the average age of the vehicle fleet is increasing, and that use imports, including 4WD vehicles, have probably contributed to this increase. Officials are currrently considering whether an investigation of measures to lower the average age of the entire fleet should be undertaken. Careful analysis is required as it is conceivable that regulatory moves of this sort to increase the age of the fleet rather than reduce it.
The New Zealand government is committed to improving the fuel efficiency of the New Zealand fleet and reducing emissions of from the transport sector. This commitment is reinforced in the National Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy, the New Zealand Transport Strategy and the Sustainable Development Plan,
In particular, the Ministry of Transport is leading a Vehicle Fuel Consumption Information initiative. This aims both to influence consumers to purchase more fuel efficient cars and to measure progress in improving the fuel consumption of the vehicle fleet, by:
Rt Hon Pete Hodgson.
Minister of Transport.
Subject: Thank you for your letter.
Date: 16 March 2005 9:53:59 PM
Rt Hon Pete Hodgson,
Minister of Transport
Dear Mr Hodgson,
Thank you for your letter of the 14th March 2005, replying to my concerns about the importation of 4WD vehicles, and other matters connected with the efficiency of fuel usage in the transport sector.
I do appreciate the time you give in answering letters.
I don’t expect any further replies, but I wish to comment further. I would say that the policies you mention, welcome as they are, are not going to be adequate to deal with the main issues regarding fuel efficiency in our transport sector. They are too little, too late. As you are aware, the government have been using American (IEA) figures in regard to the cost of oil over the next 20 years. I would say that the present pricing of over US$50 per barrel proves that the projections used in your department and the ministry of energy are hopelessly optimistic; they were when they were first published three years ago, and time has proven this. Your comment recently in Parliament that you wish you could predict the price of oil was flippant in regard to the seriousness of the problem, and the fact that we know that oil is going to be much more expensive. The only thing that might alter this is a world-wide economic recession, which is hardly the most sensible way for humanity to deal with this issue, but certainly is part of the “market solution”.
We are looking not just at very high costs for oil, perhaps $100 per barrel, but the likely inability of this country to even access this resource in competition with much bigger and more powerful nations overseas, and in just a few years’ time. In this case our ability to run this country at all is going to come under the most intense pressure. I am quite certain that the measures you have suggested are going to be entirely inadequate. We will be looking at things like petrol rationing, car less days, car pooling, reduced speed limits, etc. , all the sorts of things that were done in the oil shocks of the seventies, but this time these will be permanent.
Certainly information for purchasers is important, and it was one of the points I mentioned in my first letter to you. But mostly you are not going to alter behaviour with this. Many of the points I raised will require legislative action. For instance, reducing the speed limits for heavy vehicles and cars, differential taxation on vehicles depending on fuel consumption, congestion charging, use of carbon emissions rather than crude fuel consumption (which is fairer when comparing diesel and petrol), increasing tax rates on fuel by significant amounts, eg. 50c per litre, and using this revenue to increase expenditure on public transport, reviewing significant new roading expenditure, etc. You don’t mention any of this in your letter. Such remarks as “officials are currently considering whether an investigation of measures to lower the average age of the entire fleet should be undertaken” are, I am sorry to say, meaningless waffle.
Whilst the age of the vehicle fleet is important, from a safety and depreciation viewpoint, and I am grateful for your promised action here, this wasn’t my main concern in my letter, which concentrated in particular on 4WD vehicles. This was for the obvious reason that these vehicles are the most fuel inefficient of all the vehicles used on our roads. I was hoping to hear you say that these vehicles will incur a penalty import duty or some such similar action. It wouldn’t require a huge premium to make such imports unsustainable. As you know the number of such imports has rocketed, from less than 12,000 to over 36,000 per annum. This fact alone proves that our import controls are inadequate. You do say you will promote fuel efficient vehicles, but you give absolutely no detail as to how this will be done. The imminent oil peak means that all these vehicles will almost be useless to the owners. No-one will be able to afford to run them, they will be as much use to their owners and to our economy as a two ton pedal car. Doesn’t it make sense to anticipate this problem now, and deal with it adequately, than allow tens of thousands of individuals and their families, and our transport sector, to be saddled with such outmoded and unusable hardware?
I cannot understand the continued reluctance of this government, and previous governments, to deal with such issues firmly and directly. You will know that many such policies already exist in European countries, these are policies that will make our total economy richer, just as these countries are already. Every litre of petrol wastefully burned in our transport sector is the equivalent of a dollar note being burned, so that’s hundreds of millions of dollars in our economy wasted in heating an already overheating atmosphere. Every litre of petrol wastefully burned brings us one litre closer to the imminent demise of our oil based economy. It makes no sense, no sense at all.
Dr John K Monro