Queenstowner slams call to ban snow tyres

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Queenstown winter tyre advocate Geoff Matthews is shocked that a Palmerston North coroner recommends banning snow tyres.
 
Coroner Tim Scott calls for the ban in his finding into the death of Taumarunui meat worker William Paul. 

Paul was a front-seat passenger in a car driven by his nephew. The car, which slid on a corner and collided with a courier van on State Highway 56, near Taumarunui, last August, had four snow tyres fitted, the Dominion Post reports. 

“I have not made this recommendation lightly,” Scott says. 

“There should be no exceptions to the ban.” 

The tyres were designed for cold roads in Europe and Japan – not normal driving conditions, except on access roads to skifields or mid-winter in places like Queenstown. 

The Dominion Post also reports Scott calling for the tyres to be banned from vehicles warranted or certified to be used in New Zealand – and he also recommended making it an offence to sell snow tyres and drive a vehicle with snow tyres fitted, but stopped short of recommending cars with snow tyres be failed on warrant of fitness tests. 

Matthews – one-time personal private secretary to former Prime Minister Jim Bolger – says the coroner’s finding is “the most ludicrous, ill-conceived and uninformed finding that I can recall from any government, quasi-government or judicial agency and must be based on really bad advice to the coroner”. 

“Whoever is presenting evidence to the Palmerston North coroner has obviously not taken the time to ascertain the true facts, or they take the cake for their King Canute impersonation. 

“I have a high regard for the work coroners do in New Zealand but they are only as good as the evidence supplied and someone needs to take responsibility for this shocker.” 

Matthews – who owns an award-winning branding and marketing agency – states that the winter tyre market is the fastest growing tyre market in the world. 

“One statistic alone, and freely available on the internet, should have put doubts in the mind of whoever was providing evidence to the Palmerston North coroner and made sure that this recommendation never saw the light of day – [this] is that 50 per cent of all tyres sold in one of the world’s most advanced economies, Germany, are winter tyres. 

“Billions of dollars of development has gone into modern winter tyres, ironically much of the testing for all the world’s manufacturers is done right here in NZ, at the Southern Hemisphere Proving Ground located at the Snow Farm near Wanaka.” 

Winter tyres are compulsory in the Arctic Circle, Quebec, parts of Europe, Japan and North America, Matthews states, and “are now recommended for all cold weather temperatures under 7 degrees Celsius”. 

Matthews says that leading tyre manufacturer Continental recommends that if you live in a cold country and only want one set of tyres year-round, it should be a winter set. 

“If they were dangerous, then the lawsuits from the seven million tyres sold in the US alone would bankrupt all of the world’s tyre and car manufacturers. 

“The evidence to the Palmerston North coroner is really out of step with the entire developed world,” Matthews, who estimates more than 100 million winter tyres are sold each year, says. 

Matthews believes winter tyres can save lives in NZ’s colder climates. 

“We have North European conditions in the far south and the central plateau, but we drive around on summer-specified tyres. 

“It’s madness and I won’t let any of my staff drive company vehicles in winter that are not fitted with winter tyres.”

Matthews says he’s willing to personally pay for the Palmerston North coroner to attend an Audi experience next winter. 

Matthews this winter took issue with Queenstown skifield operator NZSki refusing to allow winter tyres as an alternative to its chain-fitting policy on access roads.