Village Voice - Wednesday 14 February, 2007

Mayor rejects price bumper for 4WDs

By Jonathan Dart

Source: Southern Courier  Author: Jonathan Dart
Mayor rejects price bumper for 4WDs 
Figures show that more people than
ever are driving four-wheel drives in
the Eastern Suburbs.

Environmental groups have criticised Randwick mayor Paul Tracey after he rejected a NSW Local Government Association proposal to increase the cost of parking permits for environmentally unfriendly cars.

The LGA plan, devised to combat greenhouse gas emissions, has already been introduced by North Sydney Council and is under review in Leichhardt and Woollahra. But Cr Tracey described the plan as "unnecessary", saying that market forces would reduce the number of gas-guzzlers on the road.

"Petrol prices should discourage the use of big cars," he said. "It's probably market forces that are going to even that out at the moment. In years to come, if that doesn't happen, councils will be looking at alternative ways of balancing that."

Yet figures released by the Roads and Transport Authority reveal an alarming rise in the number of four-wheel drives in the local area.

The overall number of small passenger vehicles registered in the local government area decreased in 2006. But the number of off-road vehicles - identified by the Federal Government's Green Vehicle Guide as being the worst polluters on the road - registered a substantial increase of 28 per cent.

Executive director of national think-tank The Australia Institute, Clive Hamilton, criticised Cr Tracey for procrastinating on the issue.

"We've already lost 10 years of inaction on climate change," he said. "What we need now is more action and fewer weak mayors.

"Driving large four-wheel drives around the city imposes large costs on everyone else. They take up more space, they are more dangerous and they produce more greenhouse gases. People who use them should be required to pay extra."

Of the 191 off-road models tested by the Green Vehicle Guide, only four received a rating of more than six out of 10 for their greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change.

The top-ranked model in terms of greenhouse emissions - the Suzuki Jimny - was given a meagre rating of seven out of 10.

Head of the Pedestrian Council of Australia, Harold Scruby, said that Cr Tracey's comments indicated an "apathetic approach".

"He doesn't deserve to be mayor," Mr Scruby said. "If we wait long enough, we won't need to worry about it because the bitumen will be too hot to park on - it will pop the tyres."

Spokesperson for local environment group Climate Action Coogee, Sasha Pinney, said that the group was generally supportive of Randwick Council's green policies, but urged it to rethink the issues surrounding car emissions.

"We needed to start thinking about this issue yesterday," Ms Pinney said. "We need to do something now, and it's something we could all do."

The council's deputy mayor and Greens councillor Murray Matson said that he would "talk to his colleagues" before taking the matter to the council.


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