00:00, Sep 30 2012
Steve Liverton
Blenheim Testing Station inspector Steve Liverton takes a close look at the undercarriage working of a car to see if meets the standards for a new warrant of fitness. The need for six-monthly renewals is being reviewed by the Ministry of Transport

Everyone has a vested interest in safe roads and the government wants to hear Kiwis' views on how vehicles using them can be kept road-worthy.

In March this year the Ministry of Transport and the NZ Transport Agency launched a Vehicle Licensing Reform project. It is reviewing the law requiring cars, trucks and motorbikes to have six-monthly warrants or certificates of fitness.

The requirement is higher than most other OECD countries, associate transport minister Simon Bridges said last week.

He urges people to have their say on how New Zealand's licensing systems can be made simpler and more efficient.

Currently, vehicle inspection fees around the country cost about $245 million and another $100m is spent getting WoFs.

There was no clear evidence the six-monthly warrants reduced vehicle-fault crashes, Bridges said.


Blenheim Testing Station managing director Neil Webb wishes Transport Ministry officials could spend a day in a testing pit and see the state of many vehicles using New Zealand roads. As one of five qualified inspectors at the Herbert St station, he worries the reform project will allow dangerous vehicles to be a growing presence.

“Obviously I have a vested interest, but a day wouldn't go by that vehicles don't come in that make you shudder.”

Typical malfunctions include bolts missing from callipers holding brakes together, loose wheel ball joints and dysfunctional lights.

Motor vehicles might be becoming more reliable but general wear and tear still occurs and can be easily overlooked, he says.

Another station inspector, mechanic Steve Liverton, says a woman arrived the other day for a warrant of fitness (WoF) before travelling on to Nelson. He asked her to slam her foot on the brake pedal as one of the tests and a stream of brake fluid shot out from a burst hose.

"She was on her way to Nelson . . . crossing the Whangamoa Saddle; there's a lot of braking [to be done] there."

Steve used to live in Queensland, Australia, where vehicle safety standards are left for owners to look after.

Safety certificates must be obtained before vehicles can be sold and at any time police can force vehicles off the road if tyres, brakes, steering, suspension, body panels, windscreen or lights are not up to standard.

Most Queenslanders keep their vehicles road-worthy by having them regularly serviced, Steve says, but surprise road blocks prove quite a few don't bother.

"Some times [police] would take up to 300 cars off the road in a week."

Blenheim Harvey's Automotive Ltd owner, mechanic Justin Harvey, says problems increase as vehicles age and clock up more kilometres.

Taxis, for example, need more work on them than the typical family car, he says.

Cars in Japan are typically taken off the road after 100,000km, Jason says, adding: "Then they send them over here [New Zealand]."

Back at the Blenheim Testing Station, two people in the queue have different views about the proposed reforms.

Kate McCallum is looking through submission forms and says she likes the option calling for regular inspections to start once vehicles are three or more years older. Instead of the suggested then annual test, however, Kate wants warrants to continue lasting for just six months.

Her 1990 Ford Laser "very seldom" needs anything done on it, she adds.

Nearby a man prefers not to give his name but says his 1993 Isuzu Big Horn always gets a WoF and he would prefer a 12-monthly renewal.

"The amount of miles we do in New Zealand . . . if something is going to break, they [testing stations] are going to pick it up."

Options being considered to replace the six-monthly warrants and certificates of fitness for New Zealand motor vehicles are:

Submission forms can be found on and must be received by October 31, 2012.

The Marlborough Express