The Government is being urged to introduce a variable regime on higher emitting vehicles so rural contractors – who have no current choice but to run them – are not penalised.

Rural Contractors NZ Chief Executive Andrew Olsen says the fact his members now face $3000 penalties for buying a new ute will dominate their annual conference next week.

He says his organisation supports reducing emissions from vehicles and the new charges for buying bigger new diesel and petrol cars should be applied to those who have other options.

“We have no problem if those who live in urban areas and have alternatives are charged a premium if they still want to buy a ‘Fendalton tractor’ or a ‘Remuera Rover.’

“That does not apply to our members who live rurally and often remotely. Currently there are no vehicles that meet their needs, no EV charging stations on backcountry roads nor public transport. This extra cost is yet another disincentive to live in rural New Zealand.”

Andrew Olsen says the only bigger size four-wheel drive he’s aware of available as an electric or plug-in hybrid is the Mitsubishi Outlander. “It’s a nice car but it’s a bit ‘soccer mum’ for a rural contractor. They need vehicles they can load-up with equipment and take into areas requiring serious four-wheel capacity like steep hillsides or still flood-sodden Canterbury farms.

“There’s currently nothing electric or plug-in on the market that meets their needs; when there is and its proven, there’d no case for any exemption.’’

Andrew Olsen says given rural contractors have no current choice but to buy diesel or petrol vehicles, the Government should consider exempting them from the new regime which from January would add around $2,900 to the cost of a new Toyota Hilux or Ford Ranger.

“We will be making this case to Government officials and anyone else who accepts that rural contractors, who have no choice under these changes, should not be penalised.”

He expects the new charges will dominate some of the discussion at the Rural Contractors NZ conference in Rotorua next week from Tuesday June 22-Thursday June 24.

“One of our first sessions is a presentation on fast-emerging electric farm vehicles. We also have a panel discussion on waste management and another on healthy waterways, with a Green MP among invited speakers. Rural contractors are actively supporting environmental change – but on-road electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids are not yet an option for them.”