Tens of thousands of automotive jobs will be lost if a Climate Change Commission recommendation to ban petrol and diesel car imports goes ahead, a mechanic says.
On Wednesday the commission released its final advice to the Government on how to slash New Zealand’s carbon emissions. Included was a recommendation to ban petrol and diesel car imports, ideally by 2030 – but no later than 2035.
This would mean there would be 900 to 2300 fewer mechanics in 2035 compared to the 17,700 there were in 2018, it said. The job loss figure was likely an overestimate, it said.
Mechanics would be impacted by electric vehicle (EV) uptake and a shift to more walking, cycling and public transport, it said.
Craig Draper, who has owned Auckland’s Fredco Motors since the mid 1990s, said the commission’s jobs impact estimate didn’t take into account all the support industries for petrol and diesel cars such as parts suppliers and petrol stations.
He believed New Zealand’s transition to an EV fleet was inevitable, and apprentice mechanics would be “foolhardy” if they didn’t train in EV servicing.
“The whole landscape will change without a doubt. Motor mechanics as we know it will literally cease to exist.”
Compared to petrol and diesel cars EVs had few moving parts, suffered less wear and tear and required less servicing, he said.
The Climate Change Commission said mechanics were already up-skilling as cars became more advanced, and this would need to continue.
There was also likely to be new jobs in refurbishing and recycling batteries and converting existing vehicles to electric, it said.
The Motor Trade Association (MTA) advocacy and strategy manager Greig Epps said it was difficult to predict what a future workforce may look like, and the commission itself acknowledged it used simplistic assumptions.
New Zealand had 15 years to get systems in place and start training people to become specialised in skills needed to support the transition to EVs, he said.
“We want to make sure we’re training now to make sure the industry has the skills to maintain the fleet that’s on the road.”
He said there would still need to be mechanics to service the “2 million or more” internal combustion engines that would be on New Zealand’s roads in 2035.
We’re still going to need the knowledge.”
He said 97 per cent of New Zealand’s existing fleet was internal combustion engine vehicles.
“There’s still going to be a lot of those vehicles in 2035 that will need to be repaired.”
He said more needed to be done to get old, unsafe and high polluting vehicles off New Zealand’s roads.
Waka Kotahi NZTA data showed that more than 50 per cent of vehicles more than 15 years old failed their warrant of fitness tests and in the past 10 years the average age of a vehicle involved in a fatal crash with a contributing vehicle factor was around 13 years old.
“These are the vehicles that we don’t want here, and they’re here right now, and there’s nothing in the report that says how we’re going to get them out.”
MTA chief executive Craig Pomare said it was disappointing the commission did not include recommendations to specifically address the existing fleet or the removal of old polluting vehicles.
MTA wanted emissions testing to vehicle servicing to ensure existing vehicles were running as cleanly as possible, he said.
It also wanted a scrap scheme developed to remove the worst vehicles from the fleet of 5 million.
“The commission acknowledges in one sentence in 419 pages that the existing fleet should be considered at some point but doesn’t make any specific recommendations.”
MTA estimated that in 2030 imported vehicles would cost about 22 per cent more than today and EVs would remain at a premium, Pomare said.
“EVs will simply be out of reach for many New Zealanders and as a result they will be obliged to keep their already ageing cars longer and face a greater risk of involvement in fatal crashes.”