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Land Transport Inquiry details announced

Human Rights Commission
Media Release - 15 September 2003

Land Transport Inquiry details announced

Public hearings will be held as part of a national Inquiry into the accessibility of public land transport for people with disabilities Human Rights Chief Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan told a meeting in Dunedin today.

The Inquiry will look into the provision of accessible public land transport in New Zealand using the Otago and Wellington regions as case studies. It will consider the need for changes to legislation, regulations, policies and procedures and funding arrangements.

"A lot of people take the ability to move around and make use of a variety of forms of transport for granted. For many people with disabilities, however, public land transport may be their only means of transport," Ms Noonan said.

"The lack of an accessible public land transport system is often a significant barrier to full participation in employment, education, recreation, community and other activities."

The purpose of the Inquiry is to determine the range of issues involved for both users and providers of public transport. The Inquiry allows all those with an interest to provide relevant information and set out their analysis and concerns. It will also seek identification of best practice from other places.

The Inquiry will comprise three phases:

* The first phase, which is underway, will focus on consultation and research and will continue into the new year;

* Public hearings will be conducted as part of the second phase, and will run between April and June 2004.

* The third phase will see the completion of the Inquiry report, which is expected in October 2004.

The Inquiry follows a number of complaints and inquiries, made to the Commission, suggesting some elements of the public transport system may not be accessible to people with disabilities. "Although we've been able to resolve some of these issues through our disputes resolution service there are clearly issues that require a more systemic approach."

Ms Noonan acknowledged the positive response to the Inquiry from many in the public transport industry and said any solutions would need wide support. "Addressing the issues raised will require the involvement of the community as a whole and cannot simply be directed toward individual transport operators or regional councils to address," she said.

The Commission aims to consult widely as part of the Inquiry process. People will be able to make submissions in a variety of ways including oral submissions made at the hearings or by forwarding their submissions on tape, by e-mail, fax or letter.

Since 1994 discrimination against people with disabilities has been unlawful in a number of areas including access by the public to places, vehicles and facilities and in the provision of goods and services. The Inquiry, which is being conducted under Section 5(2) (h) of the Human Rights Act 1993, is the first such Inquiry conducted since the Act was amended in 2001.

In addition to Ms Noonan, representatives from disability groups and the public transport sector addressed the meeting, which was held in Dunedin to acknowledge the role that local disability groups had in bringing about the Inquiry.

More information on the Inquiry and copies of the handbook can be downloaded from the HRC web site: www.hrc.co.nz/Inquiry

Ends

Q+A sheet attached.

Inquiry into Accessible Public Land Transport

Questions and Answers

Why is the Commission conducting the Inquiry?

Since 1994 discrimination against people with disabilities has been unlawful in a number of areas including access by the public to places, vehicles and facilities and in the provision of goods and services.

The Commission has received a significant number of complaints, inquiries and representations that suggest some elements of the public transport system may not be accessible to people with disabilities. The Commission has been able to resolve some of these issues using the disputes resolution processes contained in the Human Rights Act 1993. However, many of the issues brought to the Commission require a systemic approach to facilitate nationwide access to public land transport services for people with disabilities.

The Commission considers that an inquiry will establish the range of issues involved for the various public land transport users and providers, allow all those with an interest to express their views and incorporate best practice from other jurisdictions in any proposed solutions.

Why does the Inquiry use the Otago and Wellington regions as case studies?

The Inquiry will seek input and submissions from throughout the country. In addition the Wellington and Otago regions will be used as case studies to explore in greater depth the issues for public land transport users and potential users, the organisational responsibilities and responses to the issues and how particular regional circumstances are identified and responded to.

In April 2002 DPA and other disability groups in Dunedin held a transport forum to discuss transport issues for the transport disadvantaged, particularly the disabled and older people. As a result the Transport Working Party (TWP) was formed to further the issues. In October 2002 the TWP invited the Commission to host a transport forum in Dunedin. Reports from that forum led the Commission to explore the possibility of conducting an Inquiry into accessible public transport.

In relation to Wellington, as in other areas, concerns have been expressed about premises, infrastructure, conveyances, service information and the role of Councils in the provision of accessible public land transport. These issues involve the community as a whole, central and local government, and are not simply matters to be dealt with by an individual transport operator or regional council.

The Commission has not formed any views or conclusions on the matters raised in either of these cases. Taken together the two regions provide examples of most of the issues that the Inquiry will have to deal with. In both cases the regions in question will be those areas enclosed by the regional council boundaries.

Under what section of the Human Rights Act is the Inquiry being conducted?

The Inquiry is being conducted under Section 5(2) (h) of the Human Rights Act 1993.

How is disability defined for the purposes of the Inquiry?

For the purposes of this Inquiry people with disabilities have the meaning contained in section 21(1) h of the Human Rights Act 1993. This meaning covers the following:
(i) Physical disability or impairment;
(ii) Physical illness;
(iii) Psychiatric illness;
(iv) Intellectual or psychological disability or impairment;
(v) Any other loss or abnormality of psychological, physiological, or anatomical structure or function;
(vi) Reliance on a guide dog, wheelchair, or other remedial means;
(vii) The presence in the body of organisms capable of causing illness.

How can I participate?

The Commission is committed to an Inquiry that consults widely in ways that respect the dignity of all those involved. People will be able to make submissions in a variety of ways including oral submissions made at the hearings or by forwarding their submissions on tape, by e-mail, fax or letter.

Written submissions to the Inquiry can be made in either Màori or English. Oral submissions to the hearings can be made in Màori, English or New Zealand Sign Language. More information on how to participate is contained in the Inquiry Handbook (www.hrc.co.nz/Inquiry)

When will the hearings take place?

The hearings will take place in Wellington and Dunedin and other places as required between April and June 2004.

Will the hearings be public?

The hearings will be open to any member of the public. A schedule of hearing times (and location) will be circulated in advance of the hearings so that interested parties have an opportunity to attend and hear submissions of particular interest to them. Hearing details will also be posted on the HRC web site. (www.hrc.co.nz/Inquiry)

Who will sit on the Inquiry Panel?

The Inquiry Panel will be chaired by Human Rights Chief Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan. The other members of the Panel are Human Rights Commissioners Robyn Hunt and Warren Lindberg.

Will the final report be made public?

It is anticipated that the report will be completed in October 2004. The final Inquiry report will be released publicly. The report will also be placed on the HRC web site (www.hrc.co.nz/Inquiry).

How will the report's recommendations be implemented?

The report will be presented to Government, local Government and transport providers for implementation. The implementation process will be monitored by the Human Rights Commission.

ENDS

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