Safer Speeds = lower speed limits

If road speeds were limited to 0 there would be no accidents. With speed limits up 100 kph there are quite a few accidents and deaths and injuries. If road speeds were decreased there would likely be fewer accidents and deaths. So how low should they go?

RNZ:  Speed limits reduction proposal wins local support, National Party criticisms

Local leaders are backing reduced speed limits, and Associate Minister of Transport Julie Anne Genter is rejecting the National Party’s claims that reduced speed limits would put brakes on the economy.

It follows the revelation from a New Zealand Transport Agency tool, Mega Maps, that the speed limit on 87 percent of roads is higher than what is deemed the safe travel speed.

It suggested the speed should be as low as 60km/h on some open roads, and 30km/h or 40km/h in cities.

Cities across the country have already reduced or are looking to reduce speed limits.

According to the National Road Carriers Association, 95 percent of export fruit, 86 percent of export wool and 85 percent of export dairy products are carried by our trucks on the roads.

National’s transport spokesperson Paul Goldsmith said the economy relied on the movement of freight so any slowing of speeds could cost the country.

“Having a strong productive economy enables us to invest in many other areas which helps improve the quality of life and wellbeing of New Zealand so before you make dramatic changes to speed limits right across the board you have to think these things very carefully through.”

The government has given no indication whether it will reduce all speed limits, and it has rejected claims a slower network will make it less efficient.

“We don’t have more efficient roads when we have lots of fatal crashes on our roads – that slows down traffic as well so the idea that travelling at 10km/h faster, 20km/h faster on narrow, dangerous, windy roads is somehow better for the economy is completely ridiculous,” Ms Genter said.

“Travel times aren’t as affected by minor changes to the speed limit as they may think. I actually think that both the National Party and the Road Transport Forum are being incredibly irresponsible in this debate – both of them signed up to the speed management guide in 2016 and if they’re really saying that hundreds of New Zealanders should continue to senselessly die and be seriously injured on our roads for no good reason, I think that would mean they’re very out of touch with the majority of New Zealanders.”

A new road safety strategy for 2020 onwards is due to be put out for public consultation, which may include lowering limits on some high risk roads.

The current strategy: Safer Speeds Package

The Safer Speeds Programme (Safer Speeds) is New Zealand’s new approach to speed management under the Safer Journeys strategy.

One of the Safer Journeys goals is to reduce the number of speed related crashes by 2020. While the road toll is significantly lower today than it was in 2010, there are still too many people dying or being seriously injured on our roads.

In 2015, speeding was a contributing factor in 93 fatal crashes, 410 serious injury crashes and 1286 minor injury crashes. These crashes resulted in 101 deaths, 496 serious injuries, and 1,831 minor injuries.

Safer Speeds recognises that the transport environment is changing, with better infrastructure and technology available to manage speed to improve safety outcomes and promote network efficiency. Safer Speeds provides a long-term approach to manage speed on the road network to support both safety and economic productivity.

Roads can also be made safer, but that’s expensive. How much should we pay to make roads safer? Or would it be more cost effective to just reduce speed limits?

Minister of Transport refers to “car fascists”

Minister of Transport Julie Anne Genter at least attracted attention to an issue when she tweeted “We need a few car fascists to stop opposing infrastructure that gives more people the option to walk, cycle or scoot safely if they wish.”

But it’s worth seeing this in context.

And what’s as notable about this is that it’s possible for MPs to have reasonably civil engagement on Twitter.

It came in an exchange that started with:

In response:

Scott:

In that case you should support my desire to drive a gas guzzling V8 tank around. Fairs fair right?

Julie Anne Genter:

Um, are you taking up less road and parking space than the average vehicle, causing less damage to roads and pavements, and adding no pollution to the atmosphere? Because that was my case for why others benefit from me being able to travel safely by bike.

Scott:

You want your choice? great. But I’m entitled mine too right?

Julie Anne Genter:

You have that choice now, no one is stopping you. However, most people don’t feel they have the choice to cycle safely right now. The infrastructure is not there.

Scott:

I pay towards the road infrastructure through excise taxes. Will cyclists be contributing to their infrastructure on an equivalent user pays basis?

Julie Anne Genter:

Ratepayers pay for half of local infrastructure. People on bikes cost WAY less than people in cars. My point is that each additional person on a bike is way less costly & more beneficial to the efficiency of the road network than an additional car.

Car infrastructure is not “user pays”. Ratepayers pay half of local roads, and 90%+ of all parking costs are subsidised by all of us, no matter how we get around, thru higher land costs for all the off street parking that is not paid directly by motorists.

Not to mention the on street parking that is subsidised – instead of the local road space being used to optimally and safely move people, like those who would like to cycle, businesses and car drivers get free or cheap on street parking.

Some follow on exchanges:

Richard Swan:

In all fairness what is stopping anyone in Wellington walking to walk? Stopping anyone running to work?

Julie Anne Genter:

It’s not as pleasant or convenient as it could be (especially if you’re pushing a pram) in many places. The light phasing and infrastructure design treats people on foot as secondhand citizens, or makes them share with bikes, which is not ideal.

Richard Swan:

Really? Where are the footpaths putting people walking ? I run 140 km a week, including commuting to and from Karori so I am exceptionally confident I am more familiar with the state of footpaths in Wellington than you.

Julie Anne Genter:

Do you push a pram? Do you know anyone who has to use a wheelchair? You sound exceptionally more able bodied than most (including me 😂)

Richard Swan:

Well unless you want to remove Wellington’s hills , then Wellington has certain geographical constraints on wheel chair use….

Julie Anne Genter:

And yet some people get around in chairs or mobility scooters, many more walk with prams, and the infrastructure could be more amenable to their needs. Seperate cycle infrastructure means they don’t have to share the footpath with e-scooters, etc.

Another exchange:

Girvana:

Proud to be a car facist. Get me a T-shirt

Julie Anne Genter:

I guess it’s just a sad irony that the very infrastructure you oppose (along with much better frequent public transport) is by far the most cost effective way to improve the reliability of car journeys on the existing network of roads.

Girvana:

This council cannot even change bus operators successfully do no faith in PT changed. There is room for both but focussing on everything but extra roading is daft.

And another:

Michael Gaunt:

I support the move to more pedestrian friendly, public transport and low emissions…especially cycling. What’s a car fascist?

Julie Anne Genter:

The vocal minority of commentators who oppose safe cycle lanes. They oppose choice. They need to be called out. It’s got nothing to do with how you get around, it’s about opposing new infrastructure that improves safe choices.

Michael Gaunt:

Thx. I’d love more safe cycle ways. Our own bikes are massively underused because of fears around safety. I’m a fan of cycleways not being on the side of roads but different somehow.

Drug driver testing consultation by Government

Last week National MP Nick Smith tried to get a members’ bill trying to address drug driving fast tracked in Parliament.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson): I seek leave of the House for the Land Transport (Roadside Drug Testing) Amendment Bill to be set down as the first members’ order of the day on the next members’ day on 22 May.

The Speaker Trevor Mallard intervened himself (an unusual move from the Speaker who is supposed to be neutral), and when Smith reacted in response sent Smith from Parliament. This escalated when Smith over-reacted and was then officially ‘named’ by the Speaker and copped a 1 day ban from Parliament.

See Nick Smith named and suspended from Parliament for “grossly disorderly conduct”

This week the Government decided to do something about drug driver testing themselves.


Safety focus in improved drug driver testing

Improving the safety of all road users is the focus of a new public consultation document on the issue of drug driver testing.

Plans for public consultation on options to improve the drug driver testing process have been announced by Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter and Minister of Police Stuart Nash.

Julie Anne Genter said: “While drug drivers already face serious criminal penalties if caught, the current law makes it hard for Police to carry out higher numbers of tests that could deter drug driving.

“And unlike with alcohol testing, drug testing comes with some unique challenges, which is why we want expert and public input into the design process.   For example, unlike alcohol breath tests, drug tests can only detect the presence of drugs or medication. They cannot test if a driver is impaired.

“We know the public wants to be involved in the development of legislation that will impact them. Consultation will ensure changes to the current system incorporate the needs and wishes of New Zealanders.

“A considered approach to developing enhanced drug driver testing will mean we can develop a robust testing system that’s grounded in evidence and best practice. We need to do this thoughtfully,” says Julie Anne Genter.

“Irrespective of whether someone is impaired by alcohol, medication or recreational drugs, they shouldn’t be behind the wheel,” says Stuart Nash.

“Last year, 71 people were killed in crashes where a driver was found to have drugs or medication in their system which may have impaired their driving.  That compares to 109 deaths where a driver was found to have alcohol in their system.

“We need to do more to stop dangerous drivers getting behind the wheel and enforcement on our roads is a key part of this.  However Police cannot do this on their own. Every one of us must challenge dangerous driving behaviours when we see them,” Mr Nash said.

Consultation will take place over the next six weeks, concluding on Friday 28 June. The Government will be looking to confirm its options at the end of this year.

The Government is looking for feedback on:

  • the methods that could be used to screen and test for drugs
  • the circumstances in which a driver should be tested
  • what drugs should be tested for
  • how an offence for drug driving should be dealt with by Police.

Ministry of Transport:  Drug Driving

Changes to the drug driver testing and enforcement system in New Zealand

The Government is considering making changes to New Zealand’s drug driver testing and enforcement regime. Research shows that many illicit and prescription drugs have the potential to impair driving, and studies show that New Zealanders are using those drugs and driving.

Addressing drug impaired driving is an important objective if we are to make our roads safer – since 2013, the number of road deaths in New Zealand has increased by nearly 50 percent. Drug driving is making an increasing contribution to this statistic.

The Government has decided that it is time to reconsider our approach to drug driving and the public should be involved in that conversation.

A Discussion Document has been developed to facilitate a conversation about possible approaches to improving our drug driving system. The consultation seeks feedback about:

  • How we can be better at detecting drug drivers and deterring drug driving?
  • The circumstances in which drivers should be tested for drugs?
  • How to decide which drugs to test for?
  • What evidence is required to establish a drug driving offence?
  • How we should deal with people caught drug driving?

Download the Discussion Document [PDF, 1.4 MB]

Consultation process

The Ministry requests written submissions and they must arrive by 5.00 pm Friday 28 June 2019 to be considered. Submissions can be forwarded to the Ministry at:

drugdrivingconsultation@transport.govt.nz

Also:

More funding announced for rural road safety

While most Ministers are on holiday Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter has been busy promoting road safety. Today she announced extra funding for rural state highways across Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay, Manawatu-Wanganui and the West Coast. This follows earlier programmes to improve roads in The original Safety Boost Programme which made improvements in Northland, Taranaki, Manawatū-Wanganui, Otago and Southland.

This looks timed to try to address road toll news over the holiday period and end of year.

Extra Boost for Rural Road Safety

Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter today announced an extension of the Government’s Safety Boost Programme to prevent deaths and serious injuries on rural New Zealand roads.

“The Boost Programme will target 11 rural State highways that might not have high levels of traffic but still have plenty of risks like sharp corners and narrow stretches,” said Julie Anne Genter.

“The Boost Programme includes simple safety upgrades that can be installed quickly over the summer period, such as rumble strips roadside safety barriers in high-risk locations, shoulder widening, and improved signage.

“Rumble strips can reduce fatal run-off-road crashes by up to 42 percent. Shoulder widening at high risk sights can reduce serious crashes by up to 35 percent.

This summer’s Safety Boost is part of the $1.4 billion Safe Network Programme (SNP) – a collaborative, prioritised programme of proven safety improvements on high risk routes across New Zealand. The 670 kilometres of road upgrades in the Boost Programme is additional to the 870 kilometres of upgrades to high volume, high-risk State Highways in the SNP.

Extra Safety Boost for Manawatu-Wanganui Roads

The NZ Transport Agency will invest $20 million in lower cost safety improvements on rural State highways. This will include five Manawatu-Wanganui roads:

  • SH56: Makerua (SH57) to Palmerston North
  • SH57: SH3 to SH56
  • SH3: Palmerston North to Ashhurst
  • SH4: Whanganui to Raetihi
  • SH54: SH3 to Feilding

Extra Safety Boost for West Coast Roads

This will include two West Coast roads:

  • SH6 and SH67: Murchison to Westport
  • SH7: Hanmer Springs to Reefton

Extra Safety Boost for Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay Roads

The NZ Transport Agency will invest $20 million in lower cost safety improvements on rural State highways. This will include four Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay roads:

  • SH2: Wairoa to Gisborne
  • SH35: Gisborne to Tolaga Bay
  • SH2: Gisborne to Matawai
  • SH5: SH2 to Te Haroto.

This can’t be annual budget spending. It must either be from a general roading fund or from some roading related tax.

Road deaths dominate Beehive news

With the Government in holiday mode there is not much information coming out of the Beehive ‘latest news’ at this time of year, apart from releases on the rod toll.

Provisional figure for 2018 road deaths

Police Minister Stuart Nash has extended his sympathies to the families and friends of the 380 people who died in vehicle accidents during 2018.

Mr Nash has confirmed the provisional number of road deaths for 2018 has exceeded the annual toll for 2017, when 378 people lost their lives. It is the worst annual figure since 2009, when 384 people were killed.

The provisional figures show fatalities are made up of the following demographics:

  • 49 per cent were the driver of the vehicle and 24 per cent were passengers
  • 14 per cent were motorbike riders or pillion passengers
  • 11 per cent were pedestrians
  • Just over one per cent were cyclists
  • 66 per cent were male and 34 per cent were female
  • 28 per cent were in the sixty-plus age group
  • 14 per cent were children or teenagers
  • 13 per cent were aged between 20 and 24 years
  • 48 per cent died in crashes on the open road on state highways
  • The region with the largest share of fatalities was Waikato at 17 per cent; followed by Auckland and Canterbury with 14 per cent each; and Manawatu/Wanganui on 12 per cent

More information is on the Ministry of Transport website: https://www.transport.govt.nz/mot-resources/road-safety-resources/road-deaths/

Two thirds of deaths were men. Motorbikes are relatively dangerous.

Waikato is the most dangerous region. Interesting to see the toll less in Auckland, although a lot of the roads in Auckland are either motorways with separated lanes or urban streets.

Curiously the Canterbury toll is high, but the Otago toll is low, with most deaths on State Highway 1 north and south of Dunedin.

This toll has since increased to 382 –Death in hospital lifts 2018 road toll (ODT) A man injured in a Nelson car crash last month has died – taking last year’s road toll up to 382.

Let’s make 2019 different and take care on our roads

After another tragic year on New Zealand roads, Associate Minister of Transport Julie Anne Genter is emphasising Government’s commitment to improving the country’s road safety record.

“It is staggering and unnecessary loss of life – equivalent in scale to a major airline crash,” said Julie Anne Genter.

“It is yet another reminder of the need to make substantial improvements to road safety in New Zealand.

“Many deaths and serious injuries on our roads are preventable.”

‘Are preventable’ keeps getting trotted out with deaths – of course road deaths are ‘preventable’, if no one used cars, or if ten times as much was spent improving road safety. Banning motorbikes would prevent deaths, as would banning male drivers.

This Government is committed to reducing deaths and serious injuries through new thinking, more funding and prioritised action.

“The Government is investing $1.4 billion over three years to make urgent safety improvements across our high-risk roads. On high volume state highways New Zealanders can expect to see more improvements like life-saving median and side barriers and crash-preventing rumble strips.

“This year we will be consulting the public on a new road safety strategy and action plan to drive substantial improvements in road safety in New Zealand,” said Julie Anne Genter.

Road safety is a good thing to invest in. Accidents and deaths have a major impact on many people and families.

Too many people killed over Christmas

The official holiday period has ended with nine people tragically killed in crashes on New Zealand roads. This is three people fewer than the 12 who died last holiday season.

Much of the previous release was repeated.

More information http://www.transport.govt.nz/mot-resources/road-safety-resources/road-deaths/christmasnew-year-holiday-period-road-deaths/

Using roads or streets is one of the biggest risks we take in our lives. Because we travel so much it is easy to take safety for granted.

Unfortunately some deaths are caused by others at no fault of the victims – there is nothing much we can do about this but support Government expenditure on safety measures, and hope like hell it doesn’t happen to ourselves.

 

Genter acknowledges road toll reality

Last April Green MP and Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter suggested an ambitious (and unrealistic) target “As part of the development of a new road safety strategy the Government will investigate setting a target of zero road deaths.” See Zero car target for zero road toll, or zero credibility?

After a year as a Minister she now sounds more realistic. NZ Herald:  It will be ‘many decades’ before the road toll is substantially reduced, says Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter

It will be “many decades” before New Zealand sees a substantial change in the road toll, says Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter.

Her comments come after New Zealand experienced its highest road toll since 2009, with almost 400 deaths last year.

Genter said the Government was in the process of implementing its road safety strategy – a strategy she said would save lives.

But this would take time, she said.

“The reality is these things take time and [there’s] a huge amount of road upgrades that need to be completed.”

In December last year, the Government committed $1.4 billion to making roads safer.

The policy, called the Safe Network Programme, aims to make 870km of high volume, high-risk State Highways safer by 2021 with improvements like median and side barriers, rumble strips, and shoulder widening.

That policy strategy will be in place in 2020, but Genter said it would be a process of “many decades to substantially bring down deaths and serious injuries on our roads”.

“We’re talking about road deaths and serious injury having increased over a five year period. It took time for that to start happening, it’s going to take time for it to turn around as well.”

In 2007, the road toll climbed to 421 people – that figure fell to 253 in 2013 before going back up to 382 last year.

In terms of how long it would take to bring the road toll back down, Genter said the Government would be working on setting those targets.

“The targets haven’t been set exactly, but we’re making the improvements to the roads and we’re building up safer speeds. I want to see this happen as soon as possible but we live in a democracy so there are certain approaches we have to take.

“But the quicker we can roll out safer speeds, the sooner we will see a reduction in deaths and serious injuries.”

We keep putting ourselves at risk of road deaths and injuries – for most of it travelling by road is the most risk thing we do apart from consumption of too much food, alcohol and drugs. People who are not at fault are at risk.

But the reality that Genter now acknowledges is that will take a significant amount of time and money to reduce the road toll to any sustainable extent.

But it is much better than it has been, despite a much bigger population and many more vehicles on the roads.

The New Zealand road toll peaked in 1973 at 843, a horrendous year – the toll for the seventies:

  • 1969 – 570
  • 1970 – 655
  • 1971 – 677
  • 1972 – 713
  • 1973 – 843
  • 1974 – 676
  • 1975 – 628
  • 1976 – 609
  • 1977 – 702
  • 1978 – 654
  • 1979 – 554

Drink driving was a major factor then, before policing was increased.

It has dropped considerably since then, but has fluctuated:

  • 2010 – 375
  • 2011 – 284
  • 2012 – 308
  • 2013 – 253
  • 2014 – 293
  • 2015 – 319
  • 2016 – 327
  • 2017 – 378
  • 2018 – 380

While this is a lot lower than the seventies the rise is a concern,.

Stats: https://www.transport.govt.nz/mot-resources/road-safety-resources/road-deaths/annual-number-of-road-deaths-historical-information/

 

$1.4 billion spending announced to make roads safer, reduce deaths

Transport Minister Phil Twyford and Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter have announced a $1.4 billion, three-year programme to make New Zealand’s highest risk roads safer. They haven’t said where the money is coming from.

The Safe Network Programme will make 870 kilometres of high volume, high-risk State Highways safer by 2021 with improvements like median and side barriers, rumble strips, and shoulder widening.

The programme will target an estimated $600 to $700 million of state highway safety improvements and $700 to 800 million of local road safety improvements. Once complete, the improvements are expected to prevent 160 deaths and serious injuries every year.

Phil Twyford said the Safe Network Programme will build urgent safety improvements on our roads at scale and pace over the next three years to save lives.

he Safe Network Programme is just one part of the Transport Agency’s safety programme. The Transport Agency continues to invest in a wide range of programmes delivered across the safety spectrum including road safety maintenance, advertising and education, road policing, active modes and public transport, all of which support improved safety outcomes.

Safety improvements in Safe Network Programme will include:

  • fixing dangerous corners
  • installing roadside and median safety barriers
  • shoulder widening
  • further safety improvements for high risk intersections
  • rumble strips
  • improving skid resistance
  • improving rail level crossing safety
  • setting safe and appropriate speed limits.

Safe Network Programme - national map

That suggests the new safety measures will prevent 160 deaths and serious injuries per year, a significant number but less than half the current road toll.

Julie Anne Genter said, “our Government believes it is unacceptable for anyone to be killed or seriously injured on our roads.”

“Annual road deaths in New Zealand increased from 253 just a few years ago in 2013, to 378 last year. The number of serious injuries increased from 2,020 to 2,836 per year over the same period.

“No other industry accepts hundreds of people dying each year as normal. No person I know thinks losing a loved one in a crash is an acceptable price to pay for living in a modern society – that’s why we’re making safety a priority.”

Earlier this year Genter said the Government was looking at introducing a zero road death policy by 2020. Stuff: Government looks at targeting zero road deaths and serious injuries from 2020

The Government will look at introducing a zero road death policy by 2020 as it strives to curb the country’s “unacceptable” road toll.

Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter made the announcement at the local government road safety summit in Wellington on Monday, telling guests local and central government needed to work together to make the ambition a reality.

“We need a new [road safety] strategy. We need a clear idea of the outcomes we want and the steps we need to take to get there,”

“I believe this is a transformational Government. It is a Government that can set ambitious targets, whether on child poverty, on climate change, or road safety.”

“Clear, truly ambitious targets drive policy and help deliver meaningful change. That’s why this Government will investigate adopting a target of zero deaths and serious injuries on our roads.”

While the target could be considered “audacious”, all road deaths and serious injuries were avoidable, and New Zealanders had become “desensitised” to the rising casualties, Genter said.

The Government would also no longer refer to the “road toll”, instead referring to “road deaths” to acknowledge the people who had lost their lives and the fact road deaths were not inevitable.

There was no mention of the zero deaths in yesterday’s announcement.

More information about the Safe Network Programme, including a map: www.nzta.govt.nz/safe-network-programme

Greens trying to attract attention on social, environmental issues

The business end of the Green Party – their ministers – have had a low profile and have been overshadowed by Labour and NZ First. This hasn’t been helped by Julie Anne Genter being on maternity leave, but James Shaw and Eugenie Sage aren’t attention seeker types of MPs anyway. They have largely pout their heads down and got on with their new jobs.

But they are trying to change this, albeit in a very low key way.

Stuff:  Greens look to social issues and rivers in second year of Government

The Green Party is keen to advance social policies in their second year of Government, like a promise to give free mental health services to anyone under 25.

The party put out a release looking ahead to their second year of Government on Saturday morning, despite the anniversary not falling for another month and a half.

Remarkably I went looking for this and can’t find anything other than the Stuff report – I can’t find it on the Green Party website, nor on their Facebook page, nor on the Green or Shaw’s Twitter feeds. What are their PR people playing at?

In it, co-leader James Shaw talks up the party’s priorities for the second year of the Government.

“Our key objectives for our second year in a Government with Labour and New Zealand First will include transforming our social safety net so no child is left in poverty,” Shaw said.

“We’re going to work really hard to address the mental health crisis in New Zealand, working towards accessible mental health services irrespective of where you live or what you earn, with free mental health services for anyone under 25.”

That mental health policy was campaigned on by the Greens and is included in the Confidence and Supply Agreement with the Labour Party – so has a good chance of actually happening.

If NZ First don’t hobble it. Shaw doesn’t sound overly confident here.

But other changes to protect New Zealand’s waterways and introduce a rental warrant of fitness have not been agreed to by the other governing parties.

“No one said this was going to be easy. This Government holds a diversity of views, just like our community does, and everything we work on must be worked through together, as adults,” Shaw said.

It won’t be easy. Not only do Greens need to get Labour into giving their policies some sort of priority, they also have to convince NZ First to back them as well, or National.

“That is the beauty of a diverse Government and a world-leading MMP voting system, the alternative is US-style politics with mega parties that hold all the power, representing the few.”

Lipstick on a pig of a governing arrangement?

The tussles between Labour and Winston Peters are looking ugly enough, and Peters is likely to be even less willing to concede policies and power to Shaw.

As much as Shaw may like to promote a Green wave of progress, he doesn’t seem to be a strong leader and he has a weak political hand to play with.

He isn’t a politician that naturally attracts attention through controversy, and especially after Metiria Turei’s disaster last year he is unlikely to want to risk a stunt approach.

So what else can Shaw do but plug away nicely and quietly? Probably not a lot.

It doesn’t help when the party puts out a release on a Saturday morning, a very slow political news time, and does not make it available on any of the major social media platforms nor their website as far as I can see – and I went looking.

Hipkins to take parental leave from Parliament

Not long ago Jacinda Ardern took leave from Parliament when she had her baby. Winston Peters took over as acting Prime Minister for eight weeks (and things seemed to tick over ok).

A week ago Green MP and Minister Julie Anne Genter had a baby and is currently on leave.

So it shouldn’t be a big deal that Chris Hipkins has announced that he will take four weeks parental leave when his second child is ‘born’ (by C-section).

This is the first time a male Minister has taken baby time out to this degree (I’m sure Ministers will have taken a bit of time out when babies have been born).

NZH:  Education Minister Chris Hipkins plans to take parental leave from Beehive for baby No. 2

Education Minister Chris Hipkins is planning to take up to four weeks paternity leave after the birth of his next baby at the end of the month.

“The main priority really will be to support the baby’s mum because the baby will be born by C-section”.

That means being around to do the heavy lifting, quite literally the heavy lifting.”

The baby will be the second for Hipkins and partner Jade.

He will also be spending time looking after the couple’s first child, Charlie, who turns two in October.

Hipkins says he already spends quality time with Charlie every morning with him, getting him up, having breakfast together and dropping him at day care.

The new baby will be subject to the same publicity regime as Charlie, who has no public photos, including on Face Book.

Hipkins: “I want him to be able to grow up like a normal Kiwi kid and I want him to have his own space to grow up and be a kid and not be public property. I accept that I am public property. That doesn’t mean that my family are.”

Hipkins will continue to be paid his ministerial salary – as Jacinda Ardern was when she took time off. There is no mechanism to stop MPs’ pay and they are not eligible for the ordinary paid parental leave scheme.

MPs are lucky that they can take time out for their families.

Hipkins has a heavy workload as:

  • Minister of Education
  • Minister of Ministerial Services
  • Minister of State Services
  • Leader of the House

Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin will pick up most of Hipkins’ education work. Iain lee-Galloway will take over Leader of the House duties. And State Services and Ministerial Services will be farmed out to others.

He was also given extra responsibilities after Clare Curran removed from Cabinet ten days ago:

State Services Minister Chris Hipkins will take back the Open Government responsibilities which were delegated to Hon Curran.

“The CTO appointment process is in its final stages. Minister Curran will have no further involvement in it and State Services Minister Hipkins will take over that process and finalise the details of the appointment and the implementation of the CTO role.

“Minister Hipkins has asked the State Services Commission to take a look at the CTO appointment process to ensure it has been robust, and that the meeting between Ms Curran and Mr Handley had no bearing on the process or outcome. The SSC will report back next week before the appointment process is concluded.

The CTO appointment should be dealt with by next month when Hipkins plans to take leave.

Open Government responsibilities may be put on hold. It shouldn’t make much difference, ‘open government’ was a bit of a joke under Curran.

Ardern taking leave showed that no Minister is indispensable – others should be able to take over when anyone needs to be absent.

It has happened before due to illness. In September 2016 then Minister Nikki Kaye took several months leave from Parliament to be treated for breast cancer. She resumed duties in early 2017.

Taking a few weeks off work is a privilege for MPs, many ordinary people are not in financial or employment situations that are so generous.

But it is a sign of more sensible times when MPs and ministers can take time off when they have children, whether they be male or female.

Shades of Green – “cracks in the green revolution”

Greens have not been united on everything in the past, but in opposition they were at least able to appear to be largely working together.

A simple reality of being in Government means that those MPs who are ministers – James Shaw, Julie Anne Genter and Eugenie Sage, and to a lesser extent Parliamentary Under-Secretary Jan Logie, have heavy workloads, and have had to make decisions that follow the will of Government rather than the ideals of the party.

The other four MPs have much more of a free rein, and three of them in particular are fairly prominent doing their own things on social media.

Image result for shades of green

It is now effectively a party of two halves.

And party has been particularly divided over their historic strong opposition to ‘waka jumping’ type legislation and their current opposition, and their decision to vote in favour of Winston Peters’ controversial bill.

Green supporters often react badly to criticism – some of them fervently believe their own hype and can’t countenance any possibility they and their ideals may not be perfect.

So they are not likely to take Matthew Hooton’s column in the Herald today very well – Cracks in the green revolution

True Greens are not concerned about climate change, poverty or endangered species per se, but see them as mere symptoms of the real problem, which is capitalism and the population growth it allows.

I wouldn’t call them ‘true Greens’, that’s a label more appropriate for Jeanette Fitzsimons and Rod Donald, but there is a strong green mantra that social revolution is the main aim, with the claim that that will somehow fix environmental problems.

Hooton describes the current shades of Greens. James Shaw:

Far from having Norman’s True Green whakapapa, Shaw is a Wellington technocrat more at home at his former employer PwC than at a radicals’ rally.

He is part of a three-strong faction in Parliament but the other members are Labour’s David Parker and National’s Todd Muller, with whom he is trying to establish a multiparty consensus on climate change that might not save the planet but would certainly destroy the party.

Many Greens seem to abhor any attempt to work with ‘the enemy’, National.

Recently appointed co-leader Marama Davidson:

Davidson joins Hone Harawira as the only genuine radicals to have become party leaders.

It’s unsurprising that Davidson declined to participate in post-election negotiations with Labour.

Such processes are far too bourgeois for someone who deeply believes the New Zealand state is illegitimate.

Davidson may lead a faction of one in Parliament but she is a cult figure among Green activists who plan to insert her disciples into key party positions at its AGM this weekend.

The rest of the Green caucus:

Julie-Ann Genter is the smartest Green Minister and a genuine expert on transport and urban planning but her American heritage is a problem among the base.

Eugenie Sage is a genuine environmentalist rather than True Green but gets no credit for her wins on oil and gas, conservation funding and plastic bags.

Jan Logie worries more about the spirit of Te Tiriti o Waitangi than about the details of the Paris Climate Accord.

The party’s longest-serving MP, Gareth Hughes, is on the outer, having been overlooked for promotion despite more than eight years in Parliament.

Hughes has a very low profile. He has championed environmental issues, but seems to have lost any drive he may have had – and that’s debatable. He is perhaps best known for his ‘Hey Clint’ moment, asking a staffer what he should say.

Chloe Swarbrick, 24, and Golriz Ghahraman, 37, compete to be the darling of the party’s millennials with their eyes on the longer term.

Swarbrick seems to have taken on her job as MP seriously and has been prepared to work with any other MP or party to try to achieve some wins, especially on cannabis law reform. I think that her efforts so far have been impressive, more so because she is a first term MP.

However Ghahraman has stumbled from controversy to controversy on social media. She joined with Davidson and supporters this week claiming to be female and non-white victims.

Are Davidson and Ghahraman a serious threat to ‘the establishment’? Or are they more of a threat to the Green Party.

While the Green ministers have low profiles buried in their portfolios, the party revolutionaries have time to get attention. I’m not sure this face of the Greens is attractive to the soft Green voters they need to rebuild party support.

All the Green MPs are learning the realities of being a part of Government, and this will evolve over the current term.

They have major challenges in trying to avoid being split by fights for power that any political party (ok, except NZ First and ACT) have.

If Davidson and her supporting faction see a revolutionary takeover within the Greens as necessary on the road to drive out ‘the establishment’ then the Greens are in for challenging times.

Will they split or grow?