Never mind public nuisance, let’s look first at public safety around scooters for hire commercially in public places, says Customs Broker Peter McRae. With at least 1000 public-hire e-scooters now populating the pavements and roadways of Christchurch and Auckland, and numbers expected to grow as the e-transport category grows, from an importing point of view there are a number of regulation, categorisation and commercial concerns that the NZ government needs to address in order to general protect public safety. As a Customs Broker in New Zealand for Platinum Freight Management, classification of imported items, and regulation surrounding these items is my prime focus. Historically governments have acted too late when dealing with the introduction of new motorised vehicles, sadly often leading to public safety slip-ups and even tragedy. 2015’s hover board fires re a critical example, and it appears to me that the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) hasn’t learned this time around. The key issues identifiable in New Zealand this month straddle three areas:
- The appropriate design and resulting classification of e-scooters as vehicles for transportation, not toys
- Risk management for the expected increase in future motorised scooter imports
- Need for greater regulation and systemic collaboration to ensure rider safety (via helmets, speed, etc) and also protect public safety.
Risks for future imports by private enterprise and personal useWith the commercial introduction of e-scooters for hire, we can expect New Zealand to see an increase in the private importation of motorised scooters, or the importation of more motorised scooters for sale. When large quantities of smaller importers begin to introduce them, a host of new issues also arises around regulation and safety control. The key areas of risk are:
- Asbestos in brake pads – historically this remains an area of concern in Australia and New Zealand, even after the 2016 Imports and Exports Asbestos NZ Legislation
- Fire safety of motors – inappropriate safety features have led to fatal fires of hoverboards, suggesting the same could be true in the future for motorised scooters
- Electric motor verification (that what the importing paperwork says is actually what the motors capacity is) – required to avoid illegal importing of small engines with capacities for speed that far exceed New Zealand rules and therefore increase footpath and road safety for all. First market entrants Onzo and Lime claim their engines have a maximum 600W engine and only travel up to 25km/hr, therefore meeting NZTA regulations for vehicles on footpaths, but will all future imports be checked to ensure all motorised scooters meet this regulation too?
The current system needs adjustment.The gatekeeper to New Zealand is the New Zealand Customs Service. Internally, the NZTA and Ministry of Health should be working together to put safeguards in place, such as:
- only to be ridden in restricted areas)
- must ride with a helmet
- minimum age guidelines.