'Nothing' done to get Kiwis into electric cars - Simon Bridges

Simon Bridges says the Government isn't doing enough to get Kiwis driving electric cars.

"They've done nothing," the former Transport Minister and current leader of the National Party told The AM Show on Friday.

"Look at the current Government - what have they done? ... I think New Zealanders will be pretty disappointed with the Green Party."

Last year the Government said it was considering a range of fresh incentives.

"What we're trying to do is get a package that incentivises your middle-class people to be able to do that, but also ensures that low-income families aren't left behind," Climate Change Minister James Shaw said in September.

The problem is Kiwis love to buy cheap second-hand vehicles from Japan. Making petrol-burning vehicles more expensive would mainly punish people on lower-incomes who can't afford all-electric cars, while a subsidy for electric vehicles may not make the up-front cost low enough for many drivers to make the switch.

Mr Bridges, who has bought two electric vehicles, wouldn't commit to offering a subsidy.

"I set targets, and what you've seen is every year, the numbers have doubled. Actually under this Government, they've sort of not - I don't think they've dropped the ball on this because they're so fixated on bikes and trains and public transport, which is fine at a level, but actually, this is important as well."

Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter's office told Newshub she was currently working on a number of policies to get Kiwis into electric cars. 

Simon Bridges on The AM Show.
Simon Bridges on The AM Show. Photo credit: The AM Show

'Pretty green' highways

Mr Bridges also defended the previous Government's plan to invest in bigger highways, saying they'd help fight climate change by making routes more efficient.

"We would double-down on infrastructure. Mine would be an infrastructure Government," said Mr Bridges, calling a scrapped four-lane highway north of Auckland "pretty green".

"These guys say to us, 'You do that, it's terrible for climate change.' Actually, no - you reduce, through the efficiency, the vehicle kilometres travelled. It makes a lot of sense from any perspective."

He also complained National doesn't "get enough credit for some of the things, like the CRL, that we did do".

National initially opposed Auckland's pricy City Rail Link, and when it did get onside, tried to delay its construction to 2020.

"That is pouring money down a hole," then-Transport Minister Steven Joyce said in 2011.

Mr Bridges denied he ever dragged the chain.

"When I was Minister of Transport, I got into it," he told The AM Show host Duncan Garner.

But that wasn't always the case.

"The Government would only consider an earlier start date if it becomes clear Auckland's CBD employment and rail patronage are growing faster than expected," Mr Bridges told the New Zealand Herald in 2014, not long after taking over from Mr Joyce as Transport Minister. "To date, all indications are that this is unlikely to occur."

Then-Prime Minister John Key announced in 2016 construction would begin in 2018, with an expected completion date of 2024.

Mr Bridges' latest comments come after National's 'Bluegreen' conference in Raglan over the weekend, aimed at shoring up the party's environmental credentials.