WOF changes spark safety and job fears

Last updated 13:00 28/01/2013

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The Nelson vehicle service industry is sceptical of changes to the warrant of fitness regime that will mean no inspections for new cars for three years and annual checks for those registered after January 2000.

The changes, announced by the Government yesterday, will affect about one million of the three million cars in New Zealand, and will come into force in July 2014 or earlier.

The decision comes despite a strong campaign by industry groups, fronted by motor racing star Greg Murphy, that claimed it would increase the risk of accidents.

Motor Trade Association spokesman Ian Stronach said the decision would cost an estimated 2000 jobs among those checking and repairing vehicles.

Associate Transport Minister Simon Bridges said the changes would save motorists time and money, and would also focus on road safety.

Prime Minister John Key today defended the changes, saying they would save time and money. "I think it's going to maintain safety standards, and it's just a sensible move forward."

WOF testing was introduced in the 1930s, and car design had come a long way since then, he said.

Richmond Auto Services mechanic Bill MacDonald, who has been working with cars for more than 30 years, said the changes would mean drivers would allow their vehicles to deteriorate and become unsafe.

Mr MacDonald said he had seen the effects of a less regulated certification system while living in Queensland. The Australian state requires no periodic safety inspections once a vehicle is registered.

He described Queensland's roads as "scary", saying he regularly saw people driving with no working brake lights and squealing brakes.

Mr MacDonald said tyres were his main worry, as drivers rarely checked their condition.

"People don't look at their cars. They just stick the key in and go."

He said the loss of auto technician jobs might also be an issue.

Bowater Toyota service manager in Nelson, Chris Westley, said he was not expecting the changes to have a great effect on the company's business. They were more likely to affect smaller, corner garage-type operators, who would lose customers who normally stopped by to get a six-monthly warrant.

Mr Westley said owners of new cars would need to be more vigilant with servicing their vehicles, which was something that usually happened when warrants were done.

Nelson Automotive Solutions owner John Everett said that while he had yet to look at the changes in detail, at a first glance he was disappointed that they would affect small businesses like his.

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Mr Everett said he relied on people visiting his Main Rd Hope premises to get six-monthly warrants. Many customers owned cars that would change to needing annual checks only.

"I am concerned about safety aspects, too. I notice problems when people drive in here and put on their brakes, which most people would not be aware of. Then they drive to Christchurch at 100kmh, with cars coming the other way.

"They don't think about that stuff."

Nelson police referred the Nelson Mail to acting national manager, road policing, Inspector Pete McKennie.

He said police provided input to the consultation process. They would now be working with their road safety partners to implement the changes.

"We will be meeting with those agencies in the coming weeks to explore options for enforcement, but no decisions have been reached at this early stage."

AT A GLANCE:

The key changes to the warrant of fitness (WoF) system include: An initial inspection for new cars, followed by annual inspections once vehicles are three years old.

Annual inspections for vehicles three years and older and first registered on or after January 1, 2000. Six-monthly inspections for vehicles first registered before January 1, 2000.

Information and education to increase people's awareness of regular vehicle maintenance.

Extra police enforcement.

- Nelson

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