Niwa defends buying four Chevrolet Silverado utes valued at $172,000 each

Niwa is defending its decision to purchase four high-end utes, despite the Government's focus on reducing emissions and saving money.

A batch of Chevrolet Silverado 4x4 HD LTZ Premium utes appear ready to be picked up by Niwa from a car yard on Auckland's North Shore.

The purchase has been made despite the Government's focus on reducing emissions from vehicles in its fleet. Agencies must purchase electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids where possible but if there are no suitable options, the agency's chief executive has the power to sign off a different vehicle.

While Crown Research Institutes like Niwa are not bound by rules like core Government departments, the NZ Herald reports they must "have regard" for them.

In a statement, Niwa defended the decision saying there was "no viable alternative" to the Silverados.

The utes are set to replace two 2009 Chevrolet V8 utes which tow two boats over 3 tonnes, and two 2008/09 Toyota Landcruiser 79s which tow two 2.5 tonne boats.

"We investigated all the options in the market," a spokesperson said, "there was no viable alternative given the weight of they will be towing."

Niwa defends buying four Chevrolet Silverado utes valued at $172,000 each
Photo credit: Newshub

One of the biggest drawcards of the Silverado is its towing ability, it boasts a 4.5-tonne braked towing capacity. For comparison, a new model Toyota Land Cruiser can tow up to 3.5 tonnes and a Ford Ranger Raptor is rated at 2.5 tonnes.

"We test-drove a wide range of trucks, large and mid-sized utes in variety of real-world driving conditions to determine what was going to be most suitable and safest for our staff.

"There are no BEV or PHEV options available that can perform the role."

The Government also has a focus on saving money and retailing at $172,000 – the total retail cost of four utes would total $688,000. A cost which the Taxpayers' Union says would be out of line with priorities.

"They clearly shouldn't be making such lavish purchases when cheaper alternatives can be found to do that same job," Head of Campaigns Callum Purves told the NZ Herald.

The exact price paid by Niwa is unknown, with the agency saying it is "confidential".

As Minister of Science, Innovation and Technology, Judith Collins is one of the ministers responsible for Niwa.

The minister told the NZ Herald it was an operational decision but that she was satisfied with the process.

"I am satisfied with that due diligence has been undertaken and that these vehicles are appropriate, given the nature of the work they'll be undertaking."

Niwa defends buying four Chevrolet Silverado utes valued at $172,000 each
Photo credit: Newshub

Niwa says they are trying to transition into low-emission vehicles where possible.

"We rely on our vehicles to conduct science activity across a variety of terrains and environmental conditions," the spokesperson said.  "Whether installing climate stations in mountains or conducting fieldwork in remote river basins, boating and diving to carry out essential biosecurity work, or mobilising and demobilising our research vessels, our work requires vehicles that can safely and efficiently move our people and carry heavy loads, transport bulky and oversized kit, ascend and descend steep grades, safely tow trailers and boats, and transport gas cylinders or other hazardous substances."

They are confident that in the future, manufacturers will enable the organisation to further support the Carbon Neutral Government Programme.

"In the meantime, our research conducted for the benefit of New Zealand requires vehicles such as these Silverados".