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A reduction in the frequency of warrant of fitness (Wof) inspections for cars first registered after 2000 drew both criticism and praise yesterday.
The move is touted by the Government as benefiting about 900,000 motorists, saving them time and about $159 million a year.
But the Motor Trade Association (MTA) maintains the move will increase risks to motorists and ultimately cost them more. The AA, meanwhile, backs the changes.
The Government announced yesterday it planned to reduce the inspection frequency from six months to annually for vehicles built from the year 2000 onwards.
Vehicles built before 2000 would continue to require six- monthly inspections.
The MTA said the changes would mean the loss of more than 2000 jobs because fewer inspections would need to be carried out, pushing more skilled people out of the automotive industry.
Furthermore, it would increase risks to motorists and ultimately be more expensive for them.
''Many vehicles will now be travelling twice the distance and going twice as long before undergoing the minimum safety check,'' MTA spokesman Ian Stronach said.
''Many drivers rely on this as their primary safety and operational assurance. In an automotive environment like ours, that is too long and too far.''
Mr Stronach said it was a ''piecemeal deconstruction'' of the vehicle inspection regime that has served and protected motorists well for many years.
Road safety campaigner Clive Matthew-Wilson said the changes would result in more road deaths.
''Despite what people have been conned into believing, the current six-monthly Wof check is a major life-saver.''
He dismissed Government claims that few accidents are caused by vehicle defects and that the six-monthly Wof checks are therefore unnecessary.
''Take a typical situation where a child runs out in front of your car. Whether or not that child gets killed may well depend on the state of your vehicle's brakes and shock absorbers,'' he said.
AA Otago District Council chairman Jeff Donaldson said the Government's decision was the logical result of a thorough analysis of local and international data which showed that very few accidents were caused by vehicle defects, and that New Zealand's six-monthly inspection was not cost-effective.''
''The arguments for retaining a six-monthly inspection are no longer as valid today as they were decades ago when cars were less safe and reliable.''
Mr Donaldson said the changes reflected public opinion, with 70% of AA members surveyed supporting an annual Wof for vehicles up to 12 years old.
With only 2.5% of accidents involving a mechanical defect, and just 0.4% where it was the sole cause, the evidence did not support testing all vehicles every six months, or four times as often as most other countries, he said.
''Even with these changes, New Zealand will still have the most frequent inspection regime in the world. Most other countries only inspect vehicles every two years, or only when it is sold.''
Euan Philpot, chief executive of Jevic NZ Limited which is set to take over Vinz, also supported the changes, saying that they would reduce costs, increase competition and create opportunities for vehicle inspection companies to develop new services.
Associate Transport Minister Simon Bridges said research showed the package of changes would benefit motorists and businesses by $159 million a year. This included savings in inspection and compliance costs, justice and enforcement costs, and time spent by motorists getting their Wof.
Options relating to information and education campaigns and police enforcement activities, including funding details, would be worked through by the relevant government agencies in the coming months, he said.
Changes to the Wof system are expected to be in place by July 2014 or earlier, he said.
Key changes to the Wof
Changes to the Wof system expected to be in place by July 2014 or earlier.
• An initial inspection for new cars, followed by annual inspections once vehicles are three years old.
• Annual inspections for vehicles three years and older, and first registered on or after January 1, 2000.
• Six-monthly inspections for vehicles first registered before January 1, 2000.
• Extra police enforcement