The Australian - Wednesday 16 February 2005

New slug on 4WDs except mayor's

By John Stapleton, Robert Wilson

THE mayor who wants to impose a parking tax on four-wheel-drives gets around in a $70,000 off-roader weighing 1.7 tonnes -- but under her proposal it will be classed as a car.

North Sydney Mayor Genia McCaffery was forced yesterday to explain why her Volvo XC70 all-wheel-drive, classed as a 4WD by its maker and for import duty purposes, would not be subject to her council's doubling in the cost of residential parking permits.

The council voted on Monday night to double the costs of the permits for 4WDs from $44 to $88 a year. Owners of small cars will get a discount under the scheme to discourage ratepayers from buying gas-guzzlers with high greenhouse gas emissions.

Volvo spokesman Todd Hallenbeck said Mrs McCaffery's XC70 was technically classed as a 4WD because of its ride height, and attracts 4WD concessions on import duty.

Ms McCaffery said her Volvo had been rated as a medium-impact vehicle by the Australian Greenhouse Office green vehicle guide, and it was no bigger than the classic Volvo family station wagons on Sydney's leafy North Shore.

"We have been accused of trying to discriminate against families, but this is proof that we are not,'' she said.

"Owners of classic family vehicles, such as mine, will still pay the same. But the people who are doing the really right things, we will give them a bonus. It is only the big gas-guzzlers like the Pajero and Cherokee and eight-cylinder vehicles that will pay the higher rate.

"It is a fairer system to be asking people with a little car to pay less.''

She said compact 4WDs such as Honda CR-Vs and Toyota RAV4s would not pay extra under the scheme.

Automotive industry analyst Kim Rennick said what the council was trying to achieve was questionable. "Will it stop someone forking out $120,000 for a new Lexus Landcruiser or Range Rover? I doubt it," Mr Rennick said.

"If it's greenhouse gases they are after, then the net could be widened to include other large cars.''
And for critics of 4WDs in urban areas, such as Harold Scruby, chairman of the Pedestrian Council of Australia, the environmental impact is only part of the problem.

Mr Scruby said increased ride height made 4WDs more dangerous than cars when reversing, and more likely to kill pedestrians and other drivers in an accident. In welcoming the new tax, Mr Scruby called on 4WDs to also be banned from council carparks.

"If you want to drive them off-road, go and live in the country. These have no place in an urban environment,''
he said.
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