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Hone Harawira Speech - The cost of 3c

Land Transport Management Amendment Bill
First Reading: Hone Harawira, Transport Spokesperson
Tuesday 6 November 2007

The cost of 3c

A couple of weeks ago BP raised their petrol prices by three cents a litre, which don’t sound like much; in fact, it’s so small that it doesn’t even have a coin value anymore.

But as all those Maori families headed back home for Labour weekend for unveilings, reunions, weddings, church hui and other gatherings found out, that three cents a litre very quickly adds up to a lot of money.

And these are the families that on that same day, were identified in the Social Report 2007 as experiencing high levels of inequality; the same families that even the Labour Party faithful know have been hurt by the actions of their own government which has acted against their interests, as evidenced by the discussion around remit 38 – welfare benefits – this last weekend.

That remit, for those who haven’t seen it, called for government to urgently consider more assistance for those on low incomes, single and invalids benefits, other beneficiaries, and caregivers, who have been deliberately cut out of support under Working for Families.

The Vulnerable

That Social Report 2007 I referred to, said that some 12% of the citizens of Aotearoa live in households with incomes below the OECD threshold,and to no-one’s great surprise, Maori and other ethnic groups are the ones most affected – 12% Pakeha, 22% Maori; 29% Pasifika and 37% others.

And unfortunately that’s the continuing theme running through all of this government’s social policies – beneath the veneer of social equality, beats the heart of a government that deliberately ensures that Maori and Pasifika consistently make up the most underprivileged sector of our society.

And it’s those families, those who are continuously bypassed in the economic growth of this country, that the Maori Party is concerned about as we think about funding for land transport purposes.

This Bill will impose a new regional fuel tax of up to 10 cents per litre of petrol for regional transport projects, 50% for roading, and 50% for public transport.

Hopefully the Select Committee process will encourage innovative ideas to ensure low-income families are not doubly penalised by this new fuel tax.

The Auckland Factor

As the MP for Tai Tokerau, and a regular commuter into and out of my North Shore and West Auckland constituencies, I am constantly blown away by the magnitude of the Auckland traffic snarl.

In fact, it takes me just over three hours to get from Kaitaia to the outskirts of Auckland, and then it takes me another hour to get to my mum’s place out in West Auckland!!

I’m glad that it’s not a traffic scenario I have to deal with daily, but then I don’t know that my constituents out west will be too keen on this solution either; they’ll be happy to know more money is going into public transport and roading, but they won’t be too keen to hear it’s coming out of their pockets.

Mind you, it’s only in the last few years that Tamaki Makaurau has gotten its fair share of the roading dollar based on its economic contribution to the country. Before 2003, they got a lot less.

Wellington and Canterbury though, are still significantly under-funded compared to their contribution to the national economy, so maybe Auckland ain’t that badly off after all.

Which region gets what has long been a source of controversy, and hopefully this Bill will ensure morestrategic guidance from government about funding priorities.

Consultation

And of course, when the Maori Party thinks strategic, we think of the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi thatParekura Horomia, Nanaia Mahuta, Dover Samuels, Mita Ririnui, Mahara Okeroa, Dave Hereora and my ministerial whanaunga Shane Jones voted to delete; which doesn’t give us much hope that the New Zealand Transport Agency will bother to meet its Treaty obligations – I mean, if the government ain’t going to bother, why should it’s agencies?

We will also be interested to learn whether the views of tangata whenua have been considered in the drafting of this Bill, and we arevery interested to hear about provisions in this Bill aimed at reducing the consultation process.

We’re already concerned about the number of Councils not bothering to consult with Maori, although they are required to do so under the Local Government Act, and we note the publication,He Wharemoa te Rakau, ka mahue, which came out just a couple of months ago which said that Maori felt that engagement with local government was not genuine, and was often conductedafter the real decision-making had already been done.

Maori also feel that any interest in engaging Maori normally only happens at election time, and tails off very quickly after that.

The Maori Party is wary of any moves in this Bill which might make this situation worse.

Global Warming

The Maori Party also wants to take the opportunity of this debate on funding for roading and public transport, to again raise the crucial issues of peak oil and global warming.

With oil already at $US89 a barrel and no hope of future price drops, there is an urgent need for formal national planning on energy use and conservation of fossil fuels, ramping up community education on energy alternatives, and encouraging personal ownership of these national goals.

We’re happy that some of the regional fuel tax will go toward more public transport, but given the ever-increasing car mania in this country, more thought might have gone into more innovative ideas to encourage people to car-pool, use public transport, bike, or even walk.

Building more roads doesn’t reduce fuel consumption, and it doesn’t lead to a low energy future.

Conclusion

This Bill is part of a well-overdue step to increasing access to affordable public transport in a world crippled by rising fuel prices.

Petrol is a major cost to whanau, and any tax hike will hurt those with large families on low-incomes, and we will be seeking assurance during the select committee stage that iwi and Maori communities will continue to have the right to be consulted as is the obligation under the Local Government Act.

We support the development of low-cost public transport, and we urge all members of this House to give serious consideration to some of the complex concerns the Maori Party has raised in respect of public transport, the needs of our more vulnerable communities, and the more pressing issues of peak oil and climate change.

The Maori Party will support this Bill through to select committee.

ENDS

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