27 Apr 2018

National: petrol car levy will hurt the poor

5:11 pm on 27 April 2018

The government has been warned that it will be the poor who will bear the brunt of any levy placed on imported petrol vehicles.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges announced a package in May last year to encourage a widespread switch to electric cars.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges announced a package in May last year to encourage a widespread switch to electric cars. Photo: 123RF

The government is weighing up the levy at the moment and Climate Change Minister James Shaw said it could be used to help offset the cost of electric vehicles and mitigate New Zealand's emissions.

"You know what we all know right, is that electric vehicles are a lot cheaper to run because they are roughly about a third of the price per kilometre for the electricity cost versus petrol.

"They're a lot cheaper to maintain because they have fewer moving parts, but the up-front cost of the vehicle is prohibitive," Mr Shaw told RNZ.

Under the proposed freebate scheme, vehicle importers would pay a fee for bringing in a fossil fuel car, or receive a rebate for an electric or low emission vehicle.

But National's transport spokesperson Jami-Lee Ross said the proposed levy would hit people at the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum hard.

"It would effectively be a tax on the poor, you'd see the poorest New Zealanders who are purchasing second-hand Japanese imports having to pay the levy which would go towards subsidising electric vehicles for those who are more likely to be wealthier - and more likely to be able to purchase an electric vehicle."

Mr Ross said instead of the levy the government should be following National's lead on electric vehicles.

"I'd encourage this government to continue with what National did by exempting road-user charges, I'd encourage them to continue to purchase more electric vehicles as a government, so the government fleet is full of more electric vehicles."

And ACT's leader David Seymour said a levy would be going too far.

Electric vehicles were already massively subsidised because they didn't pay petrol tax and they also received preferential treatment in high occupancy vehicle lanes, he said.

Mr Seymour said if these initiatives hadn't already got people driving electric cars, it may be a sign it's wiser to wait for the technology to advance and their range to improve.

Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods recently bought an electric vehicle herself and said charging stations were being rolled out across the country so drivers didn't get caught short.

"We're at a point obviously within our main cities where people can very comfortably use an EV, they can charge it at home, they can do their daily travels and go home and charge it again.

"Where the challenge is coming is where people need to drive between cities and that's why EECA (Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority) has a focus on making sure that we have that spread of charging infrastructure around the country."

As of February, there were 124 public fast charging stations across New Zealand.

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