Call for WOF checks to be every six months

An increasing number of cars are failing their warrant of fitness (WOF) checks, prompting calls for a return to six-monthly check-ups. 

In 2014 about a third of all vehicles failed their inspections. That year, the Government announced vehicles registered since January 1, 2000 would only need to be checked once a year. 

Since then the number of vehicles failing has risen to 41 percent. In some regions - including Otago, Waikato, Gisborne, Northland and Southland - almost half of all WOF checks end in failure.

"As a consequence of having warrants for a 12-month period, we're picking up so many vehicles with fatal problems in them," Hamilton mechanic Paul Atkin told The Project on Thursday. He told RNZ he's seeing four or five times as many "dangerous" vehicles come in for checks than five years ago.

At the time, then-Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee said the changes would save Kiwis $1.8 billion over three decades "without compromising safety outcomes". The AA backed the changes.

But New Zealand's annual road toll has increased every year since. In 2013, 253 people lost their lives on the roads. That jumped to 293 in 2014, 319 in 2015, 327 in 2016, 378 in 2017 and 379 last year.

Road safety campaigner Clive Matthew-Wilson on Monday said although it's "hard to directly link these defective vehicles with the higher road toll, there is an obvious connection".

"The only question is how big the link is," said the editor of car review magazine The Dog and Lemon Guide.

"It is clear that the police, at least in some accidents, appear to automatically blame speed, when they should be looking at other factors, such as the roads. It is also clear that police crash investigations need to look more carefully at the condition of the vehicles involved."

He says six-monthly WOF checks picked up issues before they became serious, and people on a tight budget will often put off getting vital repairs done - even if it means waiting nearly 12 months before they're forced to.

"There needs to be a better way of funding WOF repairs, so that those who can't simply charge new tyres to a credit card, can still afford these vital safety items."

Newshub has contacted Transport Minister Phil Twyford, Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter and Brownlee for a response to the figures and Matthew-Wilson's call.