15 Jun 2021

Electric vehicle rebate scheme a 'punishment' for ute drivers - Collins

9:32 am on 15 June 2021

National Party leader Judith Collins says the government's electric car rebate scheme is a tax on ute and heavy vehicle drivers.

Judith Collins

National Party leader Judith Collins. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

The party is among the most ardent critics of the incentive scheme and has said it will immediately reverse the policy if returned to power.

From July this year, people buying new electric vehicles (EVs) could get as much as $8625 back from the government. The scheme will be funded through levies on high-emissions vehicles from 1 January 2022.

Federated Farmers has said no EV alternatives are available for the heavier types of vehicles farmers and tradespeople use, and there were unlikely to be any for at least four years.

National Party leader Judith Collins said the scheme was "counterintuitive" because coal use for power generation in New Zealand was on the rise.

She told Morning Report the government should to go back to the people on the policy.

"They did not campaign on this, they've come back after the election and suddenly decided they're putting it back in again."

Collins said it was a "punishment" of tradespeople, farmers, and others who drive heavy vehicles and utes, because there was no alternative for them.

"Why are they having to pay for government's failure to deal with emissions?

"We are now burning tonnes of imported Indonesian coal to keep the lights on. I would have thought the government needs to deal with some of those issues as well.

"I think the government's move is simply a tax on those people who have to work for a living to enable others who want to have a 'nice to have'."

"It's not a 'nice to have', having electricity generated from a renewable point of view. We were third in the world for that. Now we're way down the list."

Collins said EVs provided to her and government ministers were twice the price of diesel or petrol cars. "For many families, this is simply out of their reach."

Transport Minister Michael Woods has said the scheme was about speeding up the transition and giving people more choices. He said there were some electric trade vans already on the market and manufacturers had indicated that electric utes were on the horizon.

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Collins said the National Party would encourage electric vehicles by allowing drivers to use bus lanes and have some free parking, and continue exempting EV drivers from road user charges for some time.

"We would allow the fringe benefit tax to be removed for EVs so that that would encourage fleets of cars to be purchased by businesses, which then gives us a second-hand market, which is so clearly needed."

Climate change was important but so was the economy, she said. "Economies that are strong are able to take some of the measures we believe are important ... technology and science is what is needed in order to help deal with emissions."