New Zealand, which promotes a green and unpolluted image to the world, has long hid a dark secret – the ‘land of the long white cloud’ has no vehicle exhaust emission controls whatsoever.
Now the country that introduced lead-free petrol purely to get the lead out, rather than as part of a proper pollution control policy, has finally been caught out.
Michael Walsh, a US-based consultant who advises governments and international organisations such as the World Bank on air safety issues, expressed astonishment during a recent visit that a country which promotes itself on its ‘clean-green’ image could be the only country in the OECD that lacks any legislation controlling vehicle exhaust emissions.
It is estimated that at least 500 people in New Zealand die prematurely each year due to the effects of vehicle pollution, mainly in the form of carbon monoxide and carbon particulates from diesel vehicles.
According to Walsh, there are more than 35 days per year that vehicle pollution levels in the largest city, Auckland, exceed internationally-acceptable guidelines. This compares with New York City, where it has been several years since the guidelines have been breached. The difference is due to the use of low-sulphur diesel and low-benzene petrol, combined with rigid exhaust emission control systems on vehicles.
Although new cars sold in New Zealand have been virtually 100% compliant (on a voluntary basis) with overseas emission control legislation since 1997, there is no legislation requiring effective pollution control equipment on the tens of thousands of used vehicles imported each year. Nor is there an ongoing emissions check as part of the Warrant of Fitness test.
The revelation that New Zealand sits at the bottom of the OECD table in vehicle pollution statistics is claimed to be “of great concern” to the Motor Industry Association (MIA), the organisation which represents local new vehicle distributors, though this group is understood to have never before called for emission controls to be implemented.
“It is time for the government to stop pussy-footing on the subject of vehicle pollution,” said MIA CEO Perry Kerr. “Bringing all imported vehicles into line with an emissions test at the border, together with incorporating an emissions test into the WOF, could be done with the stroke of a pen.
“Bringing our fuel up to standard will take longer, but Marsden Point [New Zealand’s single refinery] should be encouraged to produce low sulphur diesel and petrol in advance of the Petroleum Products Specifications Regulation changes. At that point, the government should amend the regulations to ensure that imported refined fuels meet the same standard.”
The Motor Industry Association says it “totally” supports the comments made by Michael Walsh.
“It is the ultimate hypocrisy to be signing up to the Kyoto Protocol when we continue to subject New Zealand (and the ozone layer) to the effects of the dirtiest vehicle exhausts in the western world” said Kerr.