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The most expensive car park in the country?

The Taxpayers’ Union has uncovered what is probably the most expensive staff car park in New Zealand.  Between 2010 and 2012, the Wellington City Council spent $100,000 on a zero-emissions vehicle program, and only thing to show for it is a 'charging station' that no one uses.

Two years ago the Wellington City Council was boosting about the a 'pilot' zero-emissions vehicle program. The program included the installation of a 15-amp socket at what is now Z Energy, on the corner of Customhouse Quay and Whitmore St in Wellington. 

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown welcomed the arrival of the charging post. "It shows that we are gaining momentum," she said.

She was keen to see more electric cars on Wellington streets over time, with charging points scattered around the city. Read more.

But three years and $100,000 later there are no electric cars and no one to use the charging station Wellington City ratepayers forked out for.

Instead of being used to charge electric vehicles - the 'charging station' is being used as a staff car park

A member of the public who contacted our tip-line, claims to walk past the charging station every weekday and only once this year has an electric vehicle been parked there. We've wondered down and checked the site a dozen times within the last month. Every time the 'charging station' has been occupied by a conventional petrol vehicle. 

This photo was taken over Easter.  The car belongs to one of the staff members and is not an electric vehicle.


The green figures were always red

Even worse than a white elephant charging station is the fact that the Council was paying an annual lease for the electric vehicle more than the sticker price of a brand new, fuel efficient, hatchback. Given that the electric vehicle was used so little (it saved only 176 litres of petrol) the money would probably have saved more carbon had it been used to modernise the Council's vehicle fleet.

So why did the Council do it?

The 'evaluation' the Council referred us (prepared by a market research company for EECA) concluded that the economics of the vehicles are not viable but the program nevertheless had value as a 'communications tool'. We suspect that is code for 'good media coverage for the green mayor'. The Council couldn't produce evidence that the money spent caused a take-up of electric vehicles in Wellington. 

Tackling climate change and peak oil are not fixed by Councils wasting ratepayers’ money on pet-projects. It also raises further questions about councils trying to pick winners and subsidising an expensive infrastructure that benefits only a “handful” of people at most?

The report prepared by the market research company Synovate for EECA is available here.  The Council's response to the Taxpayers' Union information request is below.

The $100,000 of ratepayer money was used for green PR, not reducing emissions.

Wellington City Council electronic cars

Taxpayers' Union
Taxpayers' Union