Transport Minister stands by EV policy despite limited availability in NZ market

Transport Minister Michael Wood is standing by the recently announced rebate scheme for electric vehicles, despite criticism over a lack of adequate low emission alternatives on the market.

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Michael Wood says several manufacturers are promising to roll out more vehicles within the next two years. Source: Breakfast

From 1 July, people buying new imported electric vehicles can get a rebate of over $8600 - or $3450 for used ones.

While plug-in hybrids will come with a $5750 rebate, and for used ones, it’s $2300. 

However, the new policy is attracting concern for those in industries that require larger vehicles for daily use - like agriculture. 

Waikato farmer Ross Townsend was at Fieldays yesterday in a quest to find a low emission alternative to his side-by-side quad but left empty-handed.

“I thought let’s have a look at an electric one because in principle it would be nice and quiet for handling stock,” he told Breakfast. 

“All I found was three yesterday - two of which were inadequate and one was gruesomely expensive.” 

From talking to vehicle importers at the showgrounds, he said the general consensus from the industry was that viable alternatives were at least five years away. 

“The nonsense of banning these when there are no viable alternatives is unbelievable… this is really dumb.” 

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Ross Townshend headed to Fieldays wanting to switch to an electric quadbike but left empty handed. Source: Breakfast

When challenged by Breakfast’s John Campbell today, Michael Wood said the more low emission alternatives would be hitting the market much sooner. 

“We’ve got really clear information on the table from a number of car manufacturers, that in the coming 12-24 months we are going to get a supply of hybrid and other cleaner vehicles coming.

“This is going to help more Kiwis, including in future years farmers, to get the vehicles they want.” 

When pressed on which companies had confirmed future rollouts, Wood wouldn’t say, only that a number have gone on record with plans to bring the new models to New Zealand.

Wood shot down the question of whether the rebate was a scapegoat to avoid addressing the emissions caused by the agricultural sector, particularly in terms of methane emissions. 

With 47 per cent of New Zealand’s carbon dioxide emissions linked to the transportation sector, he told Breakfast the Government couldn’t afford to stay idle. 

“We can declare climate emergencies, we can vote for a climate emission but if we just say no because it’s a bit tricky... we’re just saying words and not doing anything.” 

He said the policy wasn’t preventing farmers from owning utes but rather signalling to the car importers the need for lower emission alternatives to be brought into the country. 

“We’re a country that does have a really important agricultural sector but we’re actually one of the most urbanised societies on the planet as well.” 

This new rebate scheme is thought to bring in a further 19,000 lower emission vehicles into the country's fleet.

In order to qualify, the cars will need to cost less than $80,000 ruling out luxury electric vehicles like most Teslas from the scheme. 

Rebates will also expand further to include low emission vehicles that aren’t just electric or hybrid options from January 1.