Row simmers over warrant rules

Last updated 05:00 28/01/2013

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Six-monthly warrant of fitness tests are to be phased out and only annual checks will be needed for cars registered after January 1, 2000, in a move that has frustrated many in the motor industry.

There will also be a more lenient regime for new vehicles, which will need an initial warrant but will then not have to be retested for three years.

The change will affect about one million of the nation's three million cars and will come into force in July next year or possibly earlier.

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

But the new laws have had a mixed reception from some Hamilton motorists and have been strongly criticised by at least two Waikato mechanics.

Morrinsville's A-Grade Automotives Ltd owner Mark Hammond said not only would the changes have a negative impact on his business but they were a recipe for disaster, as more unsafe cars would be out on the roads.

"I can't understand why they want to compromise safety that much. It's just crazy," he said. "I think they've got it completely wrong."

Mr Hammond said he took a snapshot of 50 recent warrant of fitness checks he had completed, and of the 25 per cent that fell into the new annual ruling, 80 per cent failed the warrant test.

Hamilton mechanic Tony Arnel - owner of Arnel Service Centre - was also opposed to the new regulations, saying motorists would need to be re-educated and safety would be an issue.

"The public relies on us doing an inspection, whereas the onus is now on the owners." He suggested police be required to check vehicle tyres when performing random stops such as drink-driving tests.

The new regulations come despite a strong campaign by industry groups, fronted by supercar driver Greg Murphy, that claimed it would increase the risk of accidents and would cost 2000 jobs.

Mr Bridges said the new regime recognised concerns about older vehicles by making sure those registered before January 1, 2000, remained on six-monthly inspections.

It also recognised that the quality of vehicles and their safety features and performance were improving.

Transport Ministry research showed the package of changes would benefit motorists and businesses by $159 million a year, and by at least $1.8 billion over 30 years.

That included savings on inspection, compliance costs, justice, enforcement, and time spent by motorists getting warrants.

"These changes bring us more into line with other countries.

"New Zealand currently has one of the highest inspection frequencies in the world."

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Mr Hammond said that at present the percentage of crashes caused by faulty vehicles was about 2 per cent but feared it was likely to rise to about 10-12 per cent with fewer warrant checks.

He said if that was the answer, the Government should look at changing the warrant criteria, allowing mechanics to make more thorough checks.

AA spokesman Mark Stockdale welcomed the changes, saying they would bring savings of $45m to $70m a year for motorists without compromising safety.

Seventy per cent of AA members supported a reduction to annual testing for vehicles up to 12 years old.

"A million motorists can't be wrong," he said.

New vehicle retail group Motor Industry Association chief executive Perry Kerr also welcomed the move, saying it was pragmatic.

Motor Trade Association spokesman Ian Stronach said the decision was disappointing but entirely predictable.

The Government had not listened to data and arguments against the move, he said. Fairfax NZ

- Waikato Times

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