Greens – wealth tax, top priorities versus bottom lines

This may be little more than semantics given how malleable election promises and committed bottom lines are – Winston Peters in particular has a record of asserting bottom lines during an election campaign that disappear from coalition arrangements.

MP Julie Anne Genter said at a small business panel discussion the a wealth was a “bottom line” for the Greens if they were to join into a second Coalition government with Labour.

But co-leader James Shaw has followed up saying it would only be a top priority, and Greens don’t do bottom lines.

Newstalk ZB – Wealth tax ‘a bottom line’ for a Greens-Labour government: Genter

The Greens election policies include a plan to make Kiwis with a net-worth greater than $1 million, pay 1 per cent of their wealth to the government as a tax.

Those worth more than $2m would pay out 2 per cent of their wealth as tax.

Greens MP Julie Anne Genter today told a Newstalk ZB small business panel discussion the tax policy was a “bottom line” condition that must be met for her party to join into a second Coalition government with Labour.

However, Labour MP Stuart Nash quickly rejected the idea, saying Labour would not be introducing a wealth tax.

“[A wealth tax was] off the table,” he said.

Genter defended the wealth tax, saying it would only affect the wealthiest 6 per cent of Kiwis.

“Any sensible economist knows that we cannot carry on with the status quo. There is a tiny percentage of New Zealanders that would be affected by this tax – they are the top 6 per cent wealthiest New Zealanders,” Genter said.

“It’s not an individual who owns a $2m house and has a $1.5m mortgage.

“Tax reform has to be a bottom line, this county is not going to be better off if we continue to allow the wealthiest people and the wealthiest New Zealanders to accumulate more and more wealth.”

However, Labour’s Nash said Treasurer Grant Robertson had ruled out imposing any wealth tax.

“As the Revenue Minister, I have had a look at a wealth tax and I think it is very, very difficult to implement,” he said.

“It’s on unrealised gains, which make it very difficult for people to pay who are asset rich, cashflow poor.”

Robertson has already emphatically ruled out the Green tax policy – tow weeks ago Grant Robertson categorically rules out adopting Greens’ tax policy if Labour is re-elected

Grant Robertson has categorically ruled out adopting the Greens’ tax policy if Labour is re-elected, but James Shaw says he’s prepared to walk away from forming a Government with them if a wealth tax isn’t adopted. 

“Reforming the tax system and ensuring that people have their basic living costs met is one of the highest priorities that we are taking into this election campaign,” Shaw told Newshub. 

National Party leader Judith Collins says that’s the Trojan horse that will storm through Labour’s “no more new taxes” if elected policy. 

“The Labour Party having released its tax plan has not ruled out doing deals with the Greens on more asset tax or anything else,” Collins said on Thursday. 

Except Labour’s finance spokesperson Grant Robertson did when Newshub asked him if he could categorically rule adopting the Greens’ tax plan. 

“Yes. This is Labour’s tax plan that we announced yesterday and I said very clearly yesterday that is what we will implement in Government,” Robertson said. 

His message is don’t even bother bringing it to the negotiating table. The only tax Robertson will add is Labour’s higher tax rate of 39 percent on income over $180,000.

“I can’t be clearer than what I’ve been,” he said. 

But Shaw seems optimistic. 

“There is the small matter of an election to go,” he said. 

And if voters send the Greens back to Parliament, Shaw says they won’t accept a raw deal. 

Newshub asked Shaw if he would walk away from negotiations if the Greens don’t get their tax plan and if he will sit on the cross benches outside Government. 

“It’s always a possibility,” he said. 

Robertson said he heard Shaw say yesterday that it was a top priority and not a bottom line. 

Though it appears he didn’t run his hard line by the boss. 

When Labour leader Jacinda Ardern was asked if she would flex to the Greens, she said, “In the aftermath of the election we deal with what the voters give us.”

That is what you call wriggle room. 

So Labour seems to have a position of a wealth tax of definitely no, maybe.

In reaction to Genter’s assertion it would be ‘a bottom line’ in any coalition negotiations Shaw has pulled Greens back to maybe.

RNZ: Wealth tax not a bottom line for Green Party but they will push for it – Shaw

Green Party co-leader James Shaw says one of his senior MPs misspoke under pressure when she said a wealth tax was one of the party’s bottom lines.

Shaw told Morning Report: “It’s a heat of the moment thing and that happens during these debates” and said the extended election campaign was taking its toll.

“People are getting tired and I think she was just pressed on the point.”

She did not accidentally “tell the truth”, he said.

Earlier this month Shaw and party co-leader Marama Davidson told RNZ they had absolutely no bottom lines.

Shaw put it like this today: “At every election we lay out a series of priorities and say ‘how many MPs do we have and are we in a position to negotiate?’

Shaw says the Greens aren’t making the tax a bottom line because “when we get into negotiations we have got to see what the result of the election is. And it’s as simple as that”.

But they will be pushing for it.

“[Tax] a top priority and we have said that. We want to make sure people have enough to live on. We know that Covid-19 has exposed those pre-existing inequalities in our society. Actually the stimulus is making those things worse because the capital is flowing through wage earners and towards asset owners, so it’s driving up house prices, and we’ve had a record close on the NZX even while the median wage has fallen.

Whether or not it becomes a bottom line depends on how many people vote for the Greens, Shaw says.

“That is ultimately the situation we are in. We want to ensure that the next government is led by Jacinda Ardern again, that the Greens are part of that government and that we are able to ensure that it is as transformational a government as possible…

“We are pushing for [tax], we are pushing to significantly expand the state home building programme… we are pushing for significant action on climate change, for sustainable farmers… and so on.

“We will be putting all those things on the table with Labour after the election and saying ‘What can we do together?’.

Obviously first Greens have to get back into Parliament. If they do it their negotiating position will depend a lot on whether Labour have a majority on their own, in which case they will be able to do what they like, or if they need the Greens to form a government, which will give the Greens a stronger hand in coalition negotiations.

But even then any agreement would have to be approved by the Green Party membership.

So top priorities and bottom lines should be taken with a grain of salt.

The top priority for all parties is to get as many votes as they can, which means saying whatever they think will attract support.

After the election policy horse trading and power position negotiations will override specific policies.

I’ve seen some interesting reactions on social media – first applause for Genter appearing to show some strength in having a bottom line on a wealth tax, and then anger that Shaw had watered the Green position down.

One example was Martyn Bradbury who posted Oh sweet Jesus – why BOTHER with the bloody Greens!

This morning I woke truly refreshed brothers and sisters.

I finally knew who I was going to vote for.

The beautiful Greens.

It had happened at the most unexpected moment.

Yesterday, the mighty Julie Anne Genter told a small business panel discussion that a bottom line for the Greens to go into Government with Labour would be their wealth tax!

It was extraordinary!

FINALLY there was a reason to vote Green!

They had brilliantly, for the first time in 3 years, realised that to play politics, you gotta throw a fucking punch!

………and then this…

Wealth tax not a bottom line for Green Party but they will push for it – Shaw

Green Party co-leader James Shaw says one of his senior MPs misspoke under pressure when she said a wealth tax was one of the party’s bottom lines.

…ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING!!!!

WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

THIS IS THE REASON TO VOTE FOR YOU YOU FUCKING CLOWN!!!

WHY ARE YOU NOW WALKING AWAY FROM IT?????

They need to go. Just go now.

These people are fucking muppets.

Bradbury has been a political yoyo lately and this response is more emotive than most but similar sentiments have been expressed elsewhere.

While Ardern seemed to leave the door slightly ajar to Green tax policy the equivocation from Shaw pretty much guarantees that it can’t be a Green bottom line, so it will have to be a top priority, apart from the higher priority of getting back into Parliament of course.

Equal Pay Amendment Bill passes

Unequal pay for females (and i guess other non-males) is still an issue, but with the passing of the Equal Pay Amendment Bill it may keep improving.

RNZ: ‘Fixing the injustice’ – new law helps fight for fair pay

Parliament has passed a law making it easier for female-dominated workforces to negotiate the same pay as comparable male-dominated workforces.

The principle that women and men doing the same job in the same workplace should be paid the same is long-established, but the new law extends that to comparable workplaces.

It establishes a bargaining process for using such comparisons to determine fair pay.

The Equal Pay Amendment Bill was triggered by a claim that went to the Supreme Court in 2014, in which it was argued that aged-care workers were underpaid because they were mostly women.

Equal Pay Amendment Bill Passes with Unanimous Support

New Zealanders working in female-dominated professions will have a clearer pathway for pay equity with the passing of the Equal Pay Amendment Bill at 11:59pm this evening, say Minister for Workplace Relations, Andrew Little, and Minister for Women, Julie Anne Genter.

“No one should be paid less just because they work in a female-dominated occupation – this is one of the biggest gains for gender equity in the workplace since the Equal Pay Act 1972,” says Julie Anne Genter.

“Most people do not want to take their employer to court if they can avoid it. This Bill makes it easier to raise a pay equity claim, and encourages collaboration and evidence-based decision making to address pay inequity, rather than relying on an adversarial court process,” says Andrew Little.

Employers already have a duty not to pay people differently on the basis of sex – this Bill helps parties to come to an agreement about what equitable remuneration would be, and makes court action a last resort rather than a first step.

Government, Business New Zealand and the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions were strongly involved in developing the process for raising and resolving pay equity claims.

This Bill ensures that businesses, workers, and unions will find it easier to bargain effectively and fairly. It aligns with the bargaining process in the Employment Relations Act 2000.

Pay equity settlements benefit those who have been underpaid due to systemic sex-based discrimination – achieving pay equity and putting more money in the hands of the lowest paid workers has a significant positive impact on their lives, and is likely to have flow-on benefits to their whanau and the wider community.

“A modern and more effective system for dealing with pay equity claims is long overdue. It is just one step in a long journey towards gender equality, the work does not end here,” says Minister Little.

“This Government is taking action to ensure women are paid fairly. We are delivering for women by passing pay equity legislation, delivering record pay settlements for female dominated workforces, and closing the gender pay gap with the Action Plan in the public sector,” says Minister Genter.

All parties appear to have supported the bill.

It’s good to see some positive news from Parliament for a change.

After Covid – back to near ‘normal’ or radical change?

Will how the country comes out of this crisis shape the economy and society in New Zealand for decades to come? A bit for sure, but how much?

One thing is for sure, the old ‘normal’ is no longer, after Covid-19 has subsided (presuming and hoping that it does fade away in the next year or two) the world will be significantly different.

One local government councillor in Wellington has suggested radical changes to traffic and streets – RNZ:

A Wellington regional councillor says now is the chance to think about how to restart the economy without also ramping up emissions, as the latest data shows air pollution fell dramatically during the first week of lockdown.

Air pollution from traffic emissions in the central city dropped 72 percent, and by 63 percent in Upper Hutt.

Greater Wellington’s climate committee chair Thomas Nash says how the country comes out of this crisis could shape the economy and society in New Zealand for decades to come.

I haven’t been appreciating any change to streets because I haven’t been out in any streets for three weeks. But some people have been going for walks and bike rides and have been enjoying the lack of cars.

But how can cities make streets “permanently safer and more pleasant”. By banning are severely restricting car use?

In the short term that would not be a good idea. For most people the alternative is public transport, and that must be a lot riskier with the virus around than safely commuting in our automobubbles.

And there’s the cost factors – councils are being asked to limit rates rises because people and businesses are facing income cuts. It may not be good timing spending big money on mass transit system. Projects in some places may be worth looking at, but I don’t see how mass transit can work in modern Dunedin, and many suburbs are too hilly to encourage a sudden shift to cycling.

And if councils want to look at resilience from viruses in the future then mass transit may not be the answer.

Most councils take so long to decide on doing things there is unlikely to be a sudden rush to radical change. That may be a good thing, especially if there’s a few idealist councillors around like Thomas Nash.

And Wellington has had major problems with their bus system as it is, and that was before the pressure of Covid. Rushing in to radical change would be a huge risk.


UPDATE:  Govt to fund temporary cycleways and footpaths post COVID-19 lockdown

The Government will provide extra funding to help councils expand footpaths and roll out temporary cycleways to help people keep 2 metres of physical distance after the Alert Level 4 lockdown, Associate Minister of Transport Julie Anne Genter announced today.

“When people begin to return to city centres following the lockdown we want them to have enough space to maintain physical distance,” said Julie Anne Genter.

“Some of our footpaths in busy areas are quite narrow. Temporary footpath extensions mean people can give each other a bit more space without stepping out onto the road.”

Funding will come from the Innovating Streets for People pilot fund, part of a wider programme that supports projects using ‘tactical urbanism’ techniques such as pilots and pop-up, interim treatments that make it safer and easier for people walking and cycling in the city.

“Footpath extensions would use basic materials like planter boxes and colourful paint to carve out a bit more space in the street for people walking, like we’ve seen on High street and Federal street in Auckland,” said Julie Anne Genter.

“A number of cities around the world, including New YorkBerlin and Vancouver, have rolled out temporary bike lanes to provide alternatives to public transport, which people may be less inclined to use in the short term.

“Councils are able to use highly-visible plastic posts, planter boxes and other materials to create temporary separated bike lanes where people feel safe.

“It’s now up to councils to put forward projects if they want to take advantage of this initiative. The NZ Transport Agency will help councils implement street changes that meet the Innovating Streets pilot fund criteria safely and with minimal disruption. While planning can start during lockdown the rollout of temporary changes will not happen while we remain at Alert Level 4.

“Councils can apply now for funding from the NZ Transport Agency, who will cover 90 percent of the cost of rolling out temporary changes to the streetscape,” Julie Anne Genter said.

How long will these ‘temporary’ changes be in place? “The rollout of temporary changes will not happen while we remain at Alert Level 4” – so it will be rolled out as people start to use their cars more.

Two scoots forward, one scoot backward

The use of relatively environmentally friendly electric scooters has surged in the last couple of years, mainly due to scooters for hire in many cities. Lime scooters arrived in Dunedin over a year ago, and it’s common to see them scattered over the city parked and lying on footpaths, and while not prolific on roads they must be being used.

They have not been without problems, in particular injuries of riders who crash. There has also been concerns about the use of scooters on footpaths, posing inconvenience and dangers to pedestrians.

The Government is now trying to address this by looking at restrictions on scooters, in particular limiting their speed to 15 km/h. This may make sense when scooting on footpaths, but it would seem a backward step in cycle lanes where bikes go much faster.

Beehive: Bid for safer footpaths

The Government is looking at ways to make footpaths more pedestrian friendly as new forms of transport such as e-scooters change the way people get around.

It’s looking at:

  • Clarifying that pedestrians and people in wheelchairs have right of way on the footpath
  • Putting in a speed limit of 15km/h (about running speed) and a width limit of 75cm for transport devices used on the footpath
  • Allowing e-scooters and other transport devices to use cycle lanes

“This package looks at how we can make our streets safer for those going from A to B, particularly young children when they are learning to ride bikes, and ensuring our road rules reflect real life,” Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter said.

“How we travel around our streets and footpaths is changing as more Kiwis choose to walk, cycle, and use new forms of mobility like e-scooters.

“New transport technologies like e-scooters are convenient, fun and help ease congestion, but we need to a balanced approach to ensure pedestrians retain priority on our footpaths.

Safety of pedestrians is important – but I don’t know whether there have been increased injuries of pedestrians due to the use of scooters.

And, limiting the speed of scooters on footpaths to 15 km/h may make some sense, it doesn’t make sense to also limit their speed to jogging pace on cycle lanes.

Other minor changes in the package to simplify and clarify road rules include:

  • Categorising vehicles to reflect changes in technology
  • Improving the safety of people walking, cycling and using micro-mobility devices by clarifying a number of give way rules
  • Giving  buses priority when exiting bus stops on roads with a speed limit of 60km/h or less
  • Clarifying the powers of road controlling authorities in relation to parking on berms.

Yesterday National announced a policy that would try to reduce regulations.

The consultation will be open from 9 March to 22 April 2020.

“Everyone has a right to feel safe on the road and close passes at speed are not only scary, they can be fatal,” Julie Anne Genter said.

Are they fatal? Have any pedestrians been killed by scooters? Or, Genter refers to roads, does she mean the speed of cars versus already slower scooters?

Safety is obviously an important consideration, of pedestrians, scooter riders and people in vehicles. Encouraging people to walk, scoot or pedal is a big thing these days.

But more pedestrians, scooters and bikes could cause congestion and safety problems.

And if they over-regulate it may deter people from using scooters.

I have looked into the practicality and economics of getting a scooter for commuting. Limiting speeds to 15 km/h would rule that option out for me.

‘Accessible Streets’ rules package consultation document www.nzta.govt.nz/accessible-streets-consultation

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/