If Metiria were PM (perish the thought) she would have told Gillard to get pedalling

The Government's VIP fleet in the highly improbable event of our having a Green Party Prime Minister.

The Greens didn’t take long to get back on top of Alf’s grumble list.

The buggers were up there two days ago, for their antics over Julia Gillard’s address to Parliament (which Alf has attended).

And they are there again today for kicking up a fuss over the Government’s ordering of a fleet of brand new BMWs.

Green Grinch co-leader Metiria Turei says this shows the Government is divorced from the needs of the public.

Radio NZ (and others) are reporting the details in a way that is bound to arouse public hostility.

Thirty-four new German luxury cars will replace the existing fleet which is just three years old.

The cars retail for about $200,000 each.

Ms Turei says that is not an appropriate use of taxpayers’ money when the Government is supposed to be tightening its belt financially.

Actually, buying BMWs was a Labour Government idea.

Unlike the great bulk of Labour ideas, this one was a good idea.

Accordingly, on 18 December 2007 the Department Of Internal Affairs announced it had signed a contract with BMW Group New Zealand to replace the existing chauffeur-driven VIP Transport Service fleet with a cleaner, more energy-efficient model.

The Department, which administers the VIP Transport fleet through its Executive Government Support branch, will purchase 34 government-model BMW 730Ld’s over the next three years to replace the current fleet of mainly Ford Fairlanes and Holden Statesmans.

The chauffeur-driven fleet is used to transport visiting guests of government including royalty, heads of states and invited dignitaries. There were more than 67 overseas “guest of government” visits in 2006 and 51 in 2007.

The fleet is also used by the judiciary (including Supreme Court, Appeal Court and High Court judges), the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of Parliament, the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition and Ministers of the Crown.

Tenders for the fleet were required to meet mandatory requirements in regard to fuel consumption, emissions, safety and fit-for-use criteria.

Whole-of-life costs (rather than just purchase price) criteria were included in this process.

“This is the first time that sustainability principles have been applied to the process for replacing the fleet, based on recommendations in a Ministry of Transport review carried out a year ago,” said VIP Transport Service national manager, Rex Ambler.

“The BMW 730Ld was selected as best fitting all requirements and also represents excellent value for money, with a cheaper whole-of-life cost than the models it is replacing.”

The chosen model outperformed all others in regard to energy efficiency and was in the top two in terms of emission standards. The MoT review called for less than 9 litres of fuel use per 100km and less than 220gr of CO2 emissions per kilometre. The BMW 730Ld rated 8.01 litres fuel per 100km and 212gr CO2 per km. This compares with the ratings of the current Ford Fairlanes of 10.21 litres fuel per 100km and 260gr CO2 per km.

The Herald reported at the time that the Government’s new BMW limousines were “greener” than the cars used now and
BMW New Zealand beat 15 other car companies with its tender for the 34-strong fleet, which for the first time asked bidders to meet fuel consumption and emissions requirements.

Department of Internal Affairs VIP transport service manager Rex Ambler said the BMW was the most fuel efficient and second-best in emission standards.

Kiwiblog.co.nz noted that the BMW’s top speed of 238km/h was 20 per cent faster than the Fairlane, making it “easier to get to the rugby on time” – a reference to Helen Clark’s speeding motorcade in 2004.

Herald motoring editor Alastair Sloane said the diesel engines would be much cleaner and more economical than the petrol-powered Fords, “which are pretty much past their use-by date from a technological point of view”.

He said the BMW’s emissions “made it cleaner than probably 98 per cent of the vehicles on NZ roads”.

The Greens should have been delighted at the emphasis on sustainability.

But nah.

Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons called the BMWs unnecessarily big “gas guzzlers”. She could work just as hard as other MPS while driving a 1300cc car which used less than five litres of fuel for every 100km travelled.

Ms Fitzsimons said the BMW’s eight litres of fuel for 100km broke the Government’s Energy Efficiency Conservation Strategy, which called for diesel vehicles to use only 6.5 litres.

Now that the Greens again have drawn attention to the BMWs, Finance Minister Bill English is saying the Government is stuck with a contract written in 2007.

He says the contract expires in 2014 at which point a better deal will be sought.

It could be there’s a bit of – let’s see how best to put this – political bulldust in English’s statements.

Alf says this on the strength of ONE News political editor Guyon Espiner saying it is not a contract as such.

“They had an option to renew, they did not have to, they would not have broke a contract at all,” Espiner told TV ONE’s Breakfast this morning.

“Wouldn’t it have been a lot more powerful for them [the government] to come out and say, ‘we can do with five-year-old BMWs, let’s wait a couple of years’?”

Well, yes.

Another thing.

If it’s a bad contract – well, why not check out whether we could save money be breaking it, regardless of the penalty payments or whatever?

Curiously, nobody has bothered to check out this option. And so, according to the Radio NZ report today…

Mr English says he does not know whether it would be cheaper to break the deal with BMW and doing so now could turn out to be a false economy.

The Prime Minister’s office does not seem at all inclined to moan about being stuck with the deal. It is saying it is standard practice for the VIP fleet to be upgraded every three years, or when vehicles have travelled 90,000 km.

A spokesperson says a substantial amount of money is being saved on the cost of the cars because there is a discount for buying in bulk.

The Green Party, of course, has called the ordering of the cars a disgrace.

But their idea of good VIP transport is a fleet of bicycles.

It’s a fiendish concept.

Requiring Julia Gillard to cycle in from the airport – for example – would have left the poor lady in no mood to deliver a speech to Parliament, no matter what protocols were applied to the occasion.

2 Responses to If Metiria were PM (perish the thought) she would have told Gillard to get pedalling

  1. nasska says:

    Alas, when the Greens make it to the Treasury benches Alf may find himself commuting by rickshaw between Eketahuna & the Beehive

    • Alf Grumble says:

      That’s a terrible thought, Nasska – how many days a week would Alf have to allocate for travel? And what will this do for the Eketahuna Club’s income stream?

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