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Govt Roading Report Says Maori Will Be `Losers'

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GOVERNMENT ROADING REPORT SAYS MAORI WILL BE `LOSERS'

A Government officials' report to Cabinet says Maori may be losers in the Government's proposed road reforms. The report was considered by Cabinet late last year - at about the time the controversial roading plans, title Better Transport Better Roads, were released.

It found Maori, many of whom can least afford it, are going to carry the burden of these reforms, says Mayor Derek Fox of Wairoa District Council.

"For the Government to know nearly a year ago that these plans will result in losers - and then persist with them is outrageous. Maori won't stand to be treated as the losers in this reform", said Mr Fox.

The Ministry of Transport report assessed the overall benefits and costs of the reforms, and picked "likely winners and losers".

The report shows Te Puni Kokiri, who assessed the likely impact of the roading plans on Maori, told the Ministry of Transport that the `net benefits' are likely to be smaller for Maori than the rest of New Zealand. They also believe Maori will be `disproportionately affected by negative impacts' associated with the reforms.

The Ministry of Transport report is based upon 16 commercial companies running roads throughout New Zealand. That number has now been trimmed to between four and eight.

"Reducing the number of profit making companies won't change the winners and losers list - it just makes the plans easier for the Government to implement by muddying the water and confusing people with technicalities. These companies will still be hungry, commercial profit makers, no matter how many there are."

"The Government is getting it easy on these reforms. Very few New Zealanders know about them, so it's very hard for the average New Zealander to stand up and do anything about them", said Mr Fox.

People living in Gisborne/Wairoa, West Coast, Otago and the Southland regions were also identified as losers in the report. They can expect to pay more, experience reductions in road services and be made less well off and/or possibly worse off as a result of the reforms.

The report also says New Zealanders living in other less developed rural areas will be made relatively worse off by the reforms.

"I just can't see the reason or logic behind any plans to commercialise our roading system if people, especially those already struggling to make ends meet, are the ones who going to have to pay."

"People need to go into this election with their eyes open. The Government has been suspiciously quiet about these plans in the lead up to election, and I think we know why."

"As soon as people understand what handing over our $16 billion roading system to a few huge corporations will mean to our communities, they won't want a bar of it."

"I have just completed an extensive tour through the whole of the East Coast and Hawkes Bay areas, and people are telling me that, poor as their roading is now, commercialisation will only make things worse", said Mr Fox.

ENDS....

For further information contact:

Mayor Derek Fox

Wairoa District Council

Note to Editors:

The Ministry of Transport report provides the following comments from Te Puni Kokiri as reason for their concerns about the impact of the road reforms upon Maori:

Maori figure disproportionately in the lower socio-economic group, in both urban and rural areas.

As low-income earners, increased travel costs will tend to account for a larger proportion of their net income.

Maori are more likely to live in rental accommodation and therefore less likely to benefit from any rates reduction.

It is uncertain whether Maori will benefit from `improved certainty over travel times' (bureaucratese for: peak hour traffic charges), as Maori tend to be employed in low income jobs with little, if any, discretion over their working hours.

The collective nature of Maori land ownership and the resultant increased number of transactions under the road reforms, could very well lead to increased transaction costs, which may negate any benefit to owners of Maori land from any rates reduction.

As nearly all Maori freehold land is located in rural areas, the roading network is central to many of the economic, social and cultural activities of Maori. Minor changes in access or the cost of travel may impact significantly on activities of these communities.

Rural Maori may be exposed to potential changes in access to, and the cost of, services. Eg, access to education, health or other services may be compromised, further limiting socio-economic prospects.

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