Wednesday, January 17, 2024

From a clean car discount to a clean car tax

One of the first things the new coalition government did on gaining power was repeal the clean car discount. It was an act of pure climate vandalism, eliminating an effective policy which was significantly shifting the long-term emissions profile of the light vehicle fleet, basicly because it made farmers and the rest of Ute New Zealand may for their desire to pollute and hog the roads. But it gets worse. Because they've now followed that up with making EVs pay road-user charges. "Fair enough," you might say. "After all, we've got to pay for the roads". Sure. But they're making them pay at twice the amount an equivalent modern vehicle would pay in petrol excise tax:


So we've basicly gone from having a clean-car discount to having a clean-car tax, all because of National's climate denial and ingrained hostility to environmentalism.

This is clearly unfair. It is also, in the long-term, unsustainable. The RUC system is complicated, avoidable, easily rorted, and has high compliance costs. The only reason it exists is because farmers didn't want to pay excise tax on diesel used in their tractors (which they then drive on the roads anyway). When normal people, used to invisible, pay-as-you-go petrol taxes, are exposed to it, it is likely to lead to problems. And with National committing to moving all vehicles to RUCs as their "solution" to an expected decline in revenue, those problems are only going to get larger, and pressure is going to build for change. As for what that might look like, its worth pointing out road damage increase with the fourth power of mass, and so almost all of it is caused by trucks (which are already heavily subsidised by the RUC scheme). So we could just charge the people who do the damage, keep RUCs only for heavy vehicles, and let the rest of us pay through general taxation, thus avoiding all that bullshit paperwork. But why would National - heavily funded by the road transport industry - ever go for that?