Simon Bridges: Labour’s car tax must be stopped

Opinion 13/08/2019

New Zealanders could not be any clearer when it comes to Labour’s car tax - they don’t want a bar of it

Last Sunday I launched a petition to stop the tax and by Friday it had gathered almost 10,000 signatures. That’s some of the highest engagement we’ve seen with a petition since we’ve been in Opposition.

It’s no surprise that New Zealanders aren’t prepared to just roll over and let the Government penalise them for buying the vehicles they want to drive.

Labour’s sneaky car tax grab will hit their back pockets even more at a time when the cost of living is already unacceptably high.

It will increase the price of some of the country’s most popular vehicles by up to $3000, and if the Government introduces it alongside a proposed emissions tax on importers then it could hike the price of some vehicles by more than $6000.

Accelerating the uptake of electric vehicles is something we should absolutely be focused on, but the way forward is to incentivise those who can make the switch rather than penalise those who can’t.

Labour’s car tax will unfairly hurt New Zealanders for whom there are no low-emission vehicles that fit their lifestyles. At the top of this list are farmers, tradies and people on low-incomes who can’t yet afford an electric car and won’t be able to anytime soon if the Government keeps running the economy into the ground.

Families will have to pay thousands more for a used seven-seater van under the Government’s proposal, while wealthy executives get discounts on a Tesla Model 3 or a BMW i3. That’s not at all fair.

Even if imports of electric and low-emission cars double – putting an extra 26,000 on our roads each year – the scheme will still raise $85 million more in taxes than it pays out in subsidies each year, pinching almost half a billion dollars from hard-working Kiwis over the first five years.

Let me be crystal clear, I want to see more electric vehicles on our roads. I’ve owned a couple of electric cars myself and having been the Minister of both Transport and Economic Development I know the Government needs to be working extremely hard in this space to drive meaningful change.

The Electric Vehicles Programme I launched in May 2016 saw the number of EVs on our roads increase from 1406 to 14,867. I also extended the exemption from road user charges that year to save light electric vehicle owners up to $600 a year.

There are better ways to green the nation’s vehicle fleet than just slapping the people of New Zealand with yet another tax. The Government, sadly, doesn’t seem to understand that.

Penalising people for not buying certain types of cars – even if they’re reducing their emissions in other ways – is not right, which is why we’ll fight hard to stop Labour’s car tax.

Simon Bridges is the Leader of the National Party and of the Opposition