Drive against warrant changes financial

Editorial

Last updated 07:40 29/01/2013

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OPINION: Change is something we often don't cope well with.

The more the change affects us, the more uneasy we feel, and the changes to the warrants of fitness rules for cars are a prime example of that.

Most New Zealand families own a car, so it is understandable that any relaxation of the rules would lead to allegations that it will result in more unsafe cars being on the roads.

Under the changes, six-monthly warrant of fitness tests are to be phased out and replaced with annual checks for cars registered after January 1, 2000. There will also be more relaxed regulations for new vehicles, which will still require an initial warrant of fitness, but will then not have to be retested for three years.

The change will affect about one million of the three million cars in the country and will come into force by July 2014.

Ever since Associate Transport Minister Simon Bridges signalled the changes some months ago, opposition has been well documented, with champion racing- car driver Greg Murphy fronting a campaign for the Motor Trade Association (MTA). The big-spending campaign demanded the proposed changes be scrapped.

We were repeatedly told by Mr Bridges that the new system would save motorists time and money, while opponents strenuously argued the opposite, claiming that lives would be put at risk and any short-term financial gains would be illusionary.

Many in the motoring industry supported that latter view, but it was less than unanimous. AA spokesman Mark Stockdale was one who welcomed the changes, saying they would bring savings of between $45 million and $70m a year for motorists without compromising safety.

He was a lone voice in the motor-car industry, but it's understandable to a point. It comes down to advocacy and just who the various spokespeople are actually advocating on behalf of.

The AA has a long history of standing up for its motorist members and is once again doing just that and putting its own pecuniary interests second.

Understandably, the MTA and its myriad industry supporters have much to lose and their opposition to the changes comes with a degree of self-interest. That does not invalidate their concerns, but it does put them into a clearer and wider perspective.

For the fortunate few who can afford a new car, the changes will be welcome. There are few exercises more futile than a new car going through a warrant of fitness test six months after it's registered.

Far more of us will fall into the category of owning cars less than 13 years old, and will also welcome the relaxed rule, which means we will only need to go through an annual check.

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There are one million cars that currently fall into that category and the changes make good sense for the majority.

There will always be a minority who will ignore, or abuse, any system designed for the public good if it costs them money. However, we can't continually legislate on that basis.

- Taranaki Daily News

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