Carless days in New Zealand

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Carless days were introduced by the Third National Government of New Zealand on 30 July 1979.[1] The enabling legislation was one of several unsuccessful attempts to help the declining New Zealand economy after the oil shocks of the late 1970s—other such policies included the Think Big strategy.

In this scheme, the owners of all private petrol-powered motor vehicles under 4,400 pounds (2,000 kg), with the exception of motorcycles, were required to refrain from using their car on one day of the week, that day being designated by the owner. Thursday was the most frequently chosen day. Each car displayed a coloured sticker on its windscreen which noted the day on which it could not be used, and infringements were punishable by a hefty fine (stickers were different colours, depending on which day of the week they displayed). Other restrictions were also brought in, including reducing the open-road speed limit from 100 kilometres per hour (62 mph) to 80 km/h (50 mph) and restricting the hours that petrol could be sold at service stations and garages.

The carless days scheme was highly unpopular, and largely ineffective.[2] It lasted less than a year, being scrapped in May 1980,[3] though the 80 km/h limit remained for several years. The legislation was a failure for a number of reasons. Most importantly, exemptions were allowed, indicated by an exemption sticker. A black market for exemption stickers and imitations of them quickly developed, rendering the scheme unworkable. There was also a distinct problem in inequality—households that could afford to run two cars could simply choose different days for the two cars and continue to drive on all seven days as before. In addition, there is anecdotal evidence of people driving considerably greater mileages to achieve their daily travel needs on days they had the use of one car rather than two.


  1. ^ "Remembering carless days Archived 22 July 2014 at the Wayback Machine.", NZ history online, updated 30-Jul-2013. Retrieved 20 July 2014.
  2. ^ Wallace, M., "Carless days scheme is taking motorists for a ride", Sunday News, 3 February 1980, Retrieved 20 July 2014. (Flickr image of article, from Archives New Zealand)
  3. ^ "Carless days introduced", NZ history online, updated 30-Jul-2013. Retrieved 20 July 2014.