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Govt sits on drug driving proposal for 17 months

Simon Bridges - Leader of the Opposition

12 May 2019

Govt sits on drug driving proposal for 17 months

Government Ministers received a Discussion Document from Police and Transport officials proposing roadside drug testing in December 2017, but 17 months later it has still not been released, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.

“The revelation in response to National’s questioning that Ministers have been sitting on a roadside drug testing Discussion Document for so long confirms the Government has been dragging its feet in addressing the serious issue of drug impaired driving.

“There can be no excuses for Ministers taking 17 months to agree on a Discussion Document when a New Zealander dies from a drug impaired driver every five days.

“Road deaths from drug impaired drivers have steadily increased in recent years from 14 in 2014, 27 in 2015, 54 in 2016 to 79 in 2017. The number of road fatalities from drug impaired drivers now exceed those for drink driving by 79 to 70. But the number of prosecutions number just 200 for drug impaired drivers, compared with 16,000 for drunk driving.

“When Police Minister Stuart Nash was asked about a petition launched following the death of Matthew Dow in a crash involving a drug driver, he said ‘There’s a Discussion Document that’s been approved by Cabinet that’s going out to the public early next year.’ We now know the Discussion Document had not been approved.

“It was inappropriate for Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters to say on Thursday that the delay was due to the Christchurch Mosque attack when Ministers had the officials’ drafted Discussion Document for well over a year.

“It’s obvious that the reason for the delay is the divergent views between the governing parties. Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter is on the public record saying that roadside testing was too intrusive and that she was unimpressed with recommendations from her officials to introduce roadside saliva testing.

“National has heard from both Police and Transport officials who are frustrated Ministers are not acting on this issue. The Government has a blind spot when it comes to the risk of drug impaired driving due to their liberal policies around drugs.

“We will be seeking further explanation from Ministers about why it has taken so long to agree on the Discussion Document. National has a Bill on this issue which is ready to go through Parliament but it was voted down by Labour, NZ First and Green MPs in October 2018. National tried again to get the Bill introduced last Wednesday but it was blocked by Speaker Trevor Mallard triggering Nelson MP Nick Smith being suspended from Parliament.

“The revelation on Friday in the Coroner’s Court that the Waverley tragedy in June 2018 was caused by a driver impaired by cannabis and synthetics reinforces the urgent need for roadside drug testing. This was the worst road accident in a decade, killing seven New Zealanders.

“The Government, with National’s support, passed new gun laws in just four weeks in response to the 51 lives lost in the Christchurch Mosque attacks. We need the same sort of commitment and urgency to address drug impaired driving which causes the death of over 70 New Zealanders a year.

“National wants a proper roadside drug testing regime in place as soon as possible and before any of the Government’s law changes liberalising access to drugs takes effect. We will continue to push for the introduction of our own Bill but would equally support rapid progress on any Government Bill to get drug impaired drivers off the road.”

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