The New Zealand new car industry has called on the government to display some consistency with regard to cleaning up the country’s air. Slamming proposed new anti-smoking legislation as well-meaning but appallingly inconsistent, the Motor Industry Association is calling for a similar level of urgency in implementing pollution controls on vehicle exhausts.

“There is already evidence that air pollution caused by vehicles is killing over 500 New Zealanders per year, yet in direct contrast to their haste in imposing smoking bans in public places there has been absolutely no action to implement the kind of exhaust emissions legislation that has been standardised in every other OECD country,” said Motor Industry Association CEO Perry Kerr.

“The silence from the National Heart Foundation, Cancer Society, Asthma and Respiratory Foundation, Stroke Foundation as well as the Public Health Foundation on a problem which is at least as serious as cigarette smoke in bars and restaurants is equally deafening.”

New cars sold in New Zealand are virtually 100% compliant with pollution control legislation applying in Europe, Australia or Japan, but there are no tests at the border to ensure that pollution control devices on imported used cars are still operative. Neither is there an ongoing test as part of the mandatory Warrant of Fitness safety inspection to ensure that older cars are compliant.

During his recent visit to New Zealand, American air quality expert Michael Walsh highlighted the fact that there are more than 35 days per year on which pollution levels in Auckland exceed internationally-acceptable guidelines, compared with New York City, which has not breached the guideline for several years.

“The government cannot continue sitting on its hands on this one,” said Kerr. “At least people have the option of whether to enter a bar filled with cigarette smoke, but in our major cities just the act of getting out of bed in the morning exposes us to dangerous air pollution from the dirtiest vehicle exhausts in the western world.”