The Government’s Clean Car policies are broadly popular, a new survey of 1000 adults commissioned by EV industry group Drive Electric suggests.

More people support than oppose the Clean Car Discount (also known as the feebate scheme or derogatively as the “ute tax”), including voters from all Parliamentary parties other than ACT. The Clean Car Standard, which requires vehicle importers to reduce the average emissions of their imports or pay a fine, was supported across the board.

“The Clean Car Discount is one of the most successful climate programmes New Zealand has – and a majority of New Zealanders support it,” Mark Gilbert, chair of Drive Electric, told Newsroom.

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“New Zealanders support it because it works. We estimate the cleaner cars brought in under the programme so far will save New Zealand two million tonnes of emissions over their useful lifetimes.”

The survey echoes the findings of other recent polls in reporting a high level of concern about climate change. Nearly 70 percent of respondents are somewhat or very concerned about climate change, compared with less than 15 percent who aren’t.

An outright majority of respondents who intend to vote for Labour, National, the Greens, New Zealand First or Te Pāti Māori said they were concerned about climate change, alongside 45 percent of prospective ACT voters. Concern was roughly even across income brackets, geography and rural or city-dwellers. Women were much more likely than men to say they were concerned.

On the Clean Car Standard, more than 60 percent of respondents said it was a good policy, compared with 12.4 percent who disagreed. Supporters for every political party, including ACT, were more likely to say they agreed with the policy than disagreed. Overall, about a quarter were neutral.

About two-thirds of respondents had heard of the Clean Car Discount – slightly higher name recognition than the standard, which only half had heard of.

Since the introduction of the Clean Car Discount, electric and plug-in hybrids have gone from less than 3 percent of new car sales to nearly 25 percent.

The discount element of the policy was likewise supported by voters for every party, ranging from 76 percent of Labour voters down to 47 percent of ACT voters. Opposition ranged from 7 percent for Labour and Green supporters to 30 percent of ACT supporters.

The fee part of the policy – also called the “ute tax” – received slightly less support. More ACT voters opposed than supported it, while net support for the fee dropped to 24 percent in National voters. Lower income respondents were also less likely to support it.

However, it’s unclear whether respondents recognised the policy as the “ute tax”. The survey question described it as “a fee that applies to motorists who buy newly imported vehicles that emit more pollution” and nearly 60 percent of respondents said they weren’t previously aware of the policy.

Support for the full Clean Car Discount – including both the subsidy and fee – fell between the levels of support for the individual elements. Overall, just over half of respondents said they agreed it was a good policy, compared with 20 percent who disagreed.

Since the introduction of the Clean Car Discount, electric and plug-in hybrids have gone from less than 3 percent of new car sales to nearly 25 percent.

It will still take years to fully turn over the fleet, however. The average age of a vehicle on the road in New Zealand is 15. Battery electrics and plug-in hybrids make up about 1 percent of the fleet and even in the Climate Change Commission’s optimistic modelling won’t reach 50 percent until the late 2030s.

Marc Daalder is a senior political reporter based in Wellington who covers climate change, health, energy and violent extremism. Twitter/Bluesky: @marcdaalder

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