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Te Ururoa Flavell: Land Transport Bill

Land Transport Management Amendment Bill

Te Ururoa Flavell, Maori Party

Thursday 3 July 2008; 4.30pm

Tena koe Mr Speaker. Tena tatou katoa

It seemed an uncanny co-incidence, that as this Bill entered the Committee stage, the Deprivation Map hit the news-stands this week.

This is the map which describes scales of deprivation across Aotearoa, determined by variables like income, family support, employment and transport.

The map demonstrates that there is still a massive gulf between rich and poor, with a high degree of inequality spread across cities.

InPorirua for example; there are a large number of people living in the most deprived areas, a large number in the least deprived and very few in the middle.

There are also whole regions which are ‘in the red’ – the most deprived. Areas, coincidentally, where there are large numbers of Maori – across my electorate of Waiariki - the Bay of Plenty – as well as the East Coast and Northland.

The rolling out of the map certainly underscored our serios concerns with this Bill.

It is a difficult tightrope to walk – balancing out the development of public transport as a key response to dual challenges of peak oil and climate change; with the inevitable impact that will occur for taxpayers.

But it is a journey which we cannot avoid, and we need to go with it, and of course public transport is the most sensible way to go.

Our concern has been primarily about what measures might be put in place to assist the poor people with petrol price rises in the short term.

And it was in that context, that we welcomed SOP 209 at the committee stage.

We believe that this later change was positive in the way in which it would phase in the regional fuel tax, from a maximum of two cents per litre in the first year (2009); to a maximum of five cents per litre in the second year (2010).

This is the type of sensible and equitable yearly staggering of costs which could be introduced in to theEmissions Trading Scheme rather than giving blanket exemptions and corporate welfare subsidies for those responsible for the greatest level of pollution.

We believe that staggering in the costs in this way, will help to alleviate increased costs for low income earners.

The other positive development from this amendment is the assurance that will mean in Auckland, the approval of any roading projects needs to be consistent with the Auckland regional land transport strategy.

This is a positive and constructive change, which we hope will ensure that all projects will be both economically and environmentally sustainable.

The last thing we want to do is end up with is an open cheque to allow cost-intensive projects in the future.

The inevitable trend of rising oil costs mean that the cost of building major new highways will be extremely costly in the future; and we were pleased to support this change to ensure that certain boundaries are in place.

The Select Committee had recommended, I believe, the inclusion of this new clause, to require the New Zealand Transport Agency to take account of existing regional land transport programmes in preparing the national land transport programme.

Mr Speaker, our fundamental interest in this Bill, comes from our long-standing commitment to ensure that immediate action is taken to address the peak oil phenomenon.

We draw on the analysis of the Science Applications International Corporation report to the United States Government, which tells it like it is, about the urgent need to address an ailing global economy.

In that report, Mr Speaker, their analysis reveals that waiting until world oil production peaks before taking action would leave the world with a significant liquid fuel deficit for more than two decades.

Mr Speaker, we are trapped in a time which is full of uncertainty. We must make an intense effort to put strategies in place, now, which act on many fronts.

We know that petrol prices will continue to rise as the demand for oil continues to increase.

We know also, that the availability of oil on the international market will continue to decline in the face of this demand which new oil production does not offset. It would appear that for every new barrel of oil being discovered, five are being used.

And so, every step we can take towards preparing for a pending energy crisis must be taken seriously.

Mr Speaker, the Maori Party is of the view that our priorities across the House must be to significantly reduce oil dependency, to plan the utilisation and development of sustainable energy resources, while also ensuring that all New Zealanders are able to access affordable transport options in a world where oil shortages will mean ever-increasing petrol prices.

We have voted in support of this Land Transport Management Amendment Bill, therefore, as an act of faith that the government’s high level priorities for transport must give significant investment to public transport as a means of reducing our reliance on oil.

But, in the context of aGenuine Progress Index, we return again to the important issue of balance between expenditure to reduce oil dependence; and expenditure which our low-income people can not afford.

We can not leave this debate without continuing to raise the concept of poverty injustices – the correlation between low levels of income, and the reduced likelihood of being able to afford healthy food, warm, uncrowded housing and primary healthcare.

We must also be concerned about the trends in the number of children admitted to hospital with serious infectious diseases, a trend which is closely linked to the rising levels of poverty.

And I remind the House of the case being currently heard before the Human Rights Tribunal, that exclusion from the In-Work tax credit component ofWorking for Families is leaving our poorest children vulnerable.

On behalf of the Maori Party, I want to bring to this debate, the recent report-back from Auditor-General Kevin Brady, which stated that his investigation had been abandoned because the Ministry’s financial reporting systems were very poor.

This is the Ministry of Defence we are talking about, Mr Speaker, and the investigation into why their $2.2 billion programme for buying new ships and helicopters and upgrading planes had blown out by a massive 392.6 million dollars.

Mr Speaker, Mr Brady’s report stated and I quote:

My staff were unable to complete the audit as originally intended. A lot of the detailed information that I expected the defence agencies to have was not readily available. Although the defence agencies’ guidance states that cost estimates should be robust when they are submitted to Cabinet for approval to commence acquisition, in practice they are not.

In our view, this information is not enough for the defence agencies to demonstrate how well they are managing the projects or for Parliament or other stakeholders to reach a view on this.

Now Mr Speaker, I have taken the time out to quote from this report, because I believe it is a matter of such significance that it must affect every area of Government expenditure.

Here we are, expecting ordinary New Zealanders to dig deep into their pockets again for this brand new regional fuel tax; and yet the military’s cost estimates for some whopping $2.2 billion dollars on new weapons are described as‘not robust enough at this point’.

You see Mr Speaker, it is all about credibility.

Big ticket items like helicopters, planes, and ships must be managed effectively, responsibly and with great concern for accountability.

How can this Labour led Government expect to have any credibility if the state of mismanagement is so apparent?

I guess the answer to the question is already well known, as the recent poll results continue to show.

Whilst we make these criticisms public about the area of Defence, we do not move from our responsibilities to make a difference in terms of addressing the ongoing crisis of peak oil; and the complex web of issues attached to the provision of public transport.

We will support this Bill at its third and final reading.

And just as another add on to the debate this afternoon, I was interested in the comments that Mr Brown of New Zealand First was making this afternoon about the Treaty of Waitangi.

The issues around the Treaty of Waitangi are noted in Government documents, in the Courts and in the Waitangi Tribunal.

In fact, I will share with him now the principles as articulated in theGovernment Statement of 1989.

• The principle of government or the kawanatanga principle;

• The principle of self-management, the rangatiratanga principle;

• The principle of equality;

• The principle of reasonable co-operation;

• And the principle of redress.

So if he is looking around for an interpretation he might like try to look at these sources or even googling it.

The other point he raised was about what he thought was right for Maori.

It would be a good idea for him to ask Maori about how they feel about those principles. Without anything in place, we say Maori are quite happy for those principles to stay in place, for now, knowing full well that there is likely to be a debate, down the line, about how to honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi.


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