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Waimate king of old cars

AL WILLIAMS
Last updated 05:00 06/12/2012

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Waimate is officially home to New Zealand's oldest cars, and Timaru and the Mackenzie are not far behind.

New figures from the Motor Trade Association (MTA) show Waimate has the oldest fleet in the country with an average age of 17 years.

Timaru and Mackenzie are at 16 while the average age of the New Zealand vehicle fleet is 13. The country's newest cars are likely to be found in Auckland.

Ministry of Transport (MOT) figures obtained by the MTA show a startling variation across the country with a significantly older fleet outside the three main population centres.

The figures have raised concerns with authorities who say there are serious safety implications.

"The increasing number of old, often poorly-maintained vehicles has serious safety implications for anyone who travels on the roads of New Zealand," MTA spokesman Ian Stronach says.

"The world was very different in 1996 but the majority of our vehicle fleet was built then, or before. Features like airbags and ABS braking, once only installed on high-end luxury models, have become standard on newer vehicles; vehicle construction technology has got much better and these factors drastically increase the chances of survival for vehicle occupants in serious crashes."

MTA figures also showed Kiwis are keeping cars longer than they used to. In 2000, used imports were being scrapped at an average 15 years. That figure had climbed to 19 years in 2011.

And 51 per cent of vehicles needed work done on the day they were booked in for a warrant of fitness, so they could pass the minimum test.

"Our slow-moving economy and poor maintenance culture are in head-on collision," Mr Stronach said.

Economic factors were forcing people to keep old cars longer than they used to.

South Canterbury road safety co-ordinator Daniel Naude agreed.

"The economic factor is there; people just don't have the money to upgrade. If people are thinking of replacing their vehicle they should think of safety features and not just economy; sometimes you will pay a couple of thousand dollars extra but that can make all the difference in a crash."

He said vehicles 15 years and older would probably not have the safety features of later models.

"We are trying to push people to go for vehicles with higher safety ratings. Unfortunately, in a crash, sometimes it is the difference between death and serious injury or no injury at all."

Waimate roading manager Rob Moffat said Waimate residents were using their vehicles less than the average. "In terms of the average most people here would be using their vehicles less than bigger centres so their vehicles last longer. We don't have the extreme use these days."

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- The Timaru Herald

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