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The N.W.T.'s polar bear licence plates have evolved over the decades, but the current design has not changed since 1986. ((CBC))

The Northwest Territories' iconic licence plates are getting a facelift, although the plates will retain the familiar polar bear shape.

Starting July 1, new licence plates will be produced to meet North American standards, said Al Kaylo, the director of road licensing and safety with the N.W.T. Transportation Department.

Currently white with blue lettering — and shaped like a polar bear — N.W.T. licence plates haven't had any changes since 1986, Kaylo said.

"We're one of the only jurisdictions in North America that has a steel plate anymore, which is not environmentally friendly, so we had an opportunity to switch to an aluminum plate," he told CBC News Monday.

Kaylo said the existing N.W.T. plates also lack a "graphic sheeting" that makes plate numbers visible in the dark.

"To stand out at night for enforcement purposes or for safety purposes, our plate simply didn't conform to North American standards," he said.

"So we figured all this together would be a great opportunity to make a change."

The new plates will also display a new slogan — "Spectacular N.W.T." — in place of the current expression, "Explore Canada's Arctic."

N.W.T. motorists will have to pay a $10 "plate use" fee when they renew their licence plates this year, and will get a new licence number along with their new plates.

Those who want to keep their existing licence plate numbers or personalized plate slogans must pay an additional $25 "retention fee," according to the department.