Gaz-guzzling vehicle fees could be 20 times higher - Green MP Julie Anne Genter

The fees charged on high-emissions vehicles could have been a lot higher, MPs say, and one day they might be.

The Government earlier this week revealed its long-awaited EV rebate scheme, which lowers the cost of electric, hybrid and low-emissions petrol vehicles while upping the cost of gas-guzzlers.

"We've designed the scheme to fiscally neutral - so effectively the fees fund the discounts," Transport Minister Michael Wood told Newshub Nation on Saturday, saying that "in theory" the fees on high-emissions vehicles could go up to help pay for bigger discounts. 

"We've said at the moment we don't intend to up the fees. We've set the maximum level of those... we'll keep to that." 

If former Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter had her way, they might be tougher. 

"When people are acting really outraged about a $3000 fee on a [Ford] Ranger, that's a pretty small percentage - it's less than a third of the GST. If it's a work vehicle, that is tax deductible. So I think we need to put it in perspective." 

In some other countries, the levies on high-emissions vehicles are far beyond that - in France they're as high as €30,000 ($60,000). That might be needed if we want to give buyers of low-emissions vehicles more discounts, she told Newshub Nation.

"In order for them to be higher, we would have to accept higher fees," she said - noting France has fees 20 times higher than we will. 

"Maybe we should be making the case for that over time. Yeah, definitely."

France plans to up its fees to a maximum €50,000 in 2022 - $100,000 in New Zealand money.

She'd also remove the exemption from the fringe benefit tax for double-cab utes.

"This is something people don't realise - that utes as a work vehicle for employees are heavily subsidised. That's probably why there are so many of them driving around our cities signwritten with accountancy firms and whatnot."

The EV rebate scheme was developed last year, but didn't get across the line thanks to New Zealand First, who were ejected from Parliament at the election. 

"Everyone understands the politics of the last term where there wasn't the political consensus to move forward with this policy," said Wood. 

Julie Anne Genter.
Julie Anne Genter. Photo credit: Newshub Nation

Much of the backlash this week has come from farmers and tradies, as well as National and ACT, who say lots of people need gas-guzzling utes to do their work. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern annoyed them when she said many "buyers of those vehicles are not using them for the legitimate use as those who work in the primary sector and the trades".

"You'll know that on many of our streets around this city we have massive four-wheel-drive utes that aren't necessarily needed for that purpose," said Wood, the MP for Mt Roskill. 

"About a third of the heavy utes that are sold into New Zealand, the heavy emitting utes, are sold into the Auckland market. About 0.5 [percent] of them are sold into places like the West Coast... No one is saying that no one can buy a ute, no one is going to take away anyone's ute, no one is going to tax anyone's existing ute. But we are going to send a message that we need to clean up our fleet and provide incentives for people to get into cleaner vehicles."

Genter said it was disappointing the scheme's unveiling had devolved into a debate on utes, putting the policy on the "back foot".

"I do think that unfortunately when it was announced, there wasn't enough emphasis on the why - why is this important? The cars, utes and vans that people drive every day are responsible for the majority of our carbon emissions. We have to take action." 

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