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Flavell: Vehicle Confiscation and Seizure Bill

Vehicle Confiscation and Seizure Bill
Third Reading; Tuesday 20 October 2009
Te Ururoa Flavell, MP for Waiariki; 10.45am

I have to say I share some concerns with Mr Locke about the waste of vehicles. But if the general intent is to make an issue around safety, the Maori Party is compelled to go with this Bill.

There is a remarkable coincidence that these three bills featuring the impact of boy racer traffic offending have come before the House at a time when ACC is very much on the national agenda.

The Maori Party is acutely aware that Māori are over-represented in nearly every injury statistic but particularly from car accidents.

In a study published by the Ngai Tahu Maori Health Research Unit and Injury Prevention Research Unit a key finding was that youth was an important risk factor with two thirds of Maori casualties aged between 15 and 34 years.

The study, Motor vehicle traffic crashes involving Maori, was published in the New Zealand Medical Journal; and points out that the majority of crashes involving Maori occurred on two-way, sealed roads that were either in a city or on the outskirts of a city.

Enter the boy racer phenomenon.

This Bill accompanies the Land Transport (Enforcement Powers) Amendment Bill and makes three significant amendments to the current law.

The Bill amends the Sentencing Act, the Summary Proceedings Act, and the Privacy Act in order to reduce boy-racer traffic offending.

It acts in particular, to strengthen the powers of the courts to order the confiscation of cars, and to give them the powers to order the destruction of cars used by persistent street racing offenders.

It also strengthens provisions to seize cars in order to enforce collection of unpaid fines and reparation.

I can understand some of the reactions that have been highlighted about this course of legislation, that it appears overly heavy.

But there are a number of circumstances which convince me of the importance of this legislation.
The first is that the Court must not order the destruction a vehicle if it will result in extreme hardship to the offender or undue hardship to any other person.

But more importantly, I bring us back to the importance of road traffic crashes as a health issue for young Maori males.

Professor Mason Durie has commented that the effect of injury to rangatahi is accentuated by the loss of the benefits that can flow from competent, healthy and skilled whanau members. In real terms, this is the loss of the whanau asset – the promise of our future generation.

And I guess more than any other issue, what examining the phenomenon of boy racing does, is that it reminds us of the vital need to develop strategies for prevention of road traffic injury among Maori.

We must allocate priority to rehabilitation and support services for Maori injured as the result of motor vehicle crashes.

And this is where the craze for fast racing in souped up cars takes on a far more serious dimension.

For we are not just talking about a bit of harmless fun, just lads out having a good time.

We are talking about events which end in death or long term disability resulting from injuries.

We are talking about the traumatic loss suffered by whanau, from individuals who suffer the consequences of road crashes.

We are thinking about the real costs of care imposed on carers and whanau.

The research I cited earlier showed that head injuries were incurred by around 35% of the Maori casualties admitted to hospital, followed by fractures of the lower limb, neck and trunk.

I was interested in the views of Tino Rangatiratanga Tai Tamariki – Youth Law Inc that both bills together represent a significantly more deterrent regime of penalties and enforcement provisions, particularly in respect of illegal street racing and that the “boy-racer subculture” is the primary target for enforcement.

Another interesting submission was that from the Candor Trust – campaign against drugs on roads. Their position was that New Zealand road toll statistics tell us that ‘noise’ is actually the key ‘boy-racer issue, not road safety for the most part. And I guess noise is an issue, but it does not kill people.

But I come back to the problem we face as a parliament.

There are public safety issues, including the death and injury of young people, which need to be addressed.

We in the Maori Party are particularly concerned about the significant burden to the health of young Maori created by death and injury due to motor vehicle crashes.

And so we admit that our support for this Bill is in the absolute hope that anything we can do to prevent illegal street racing, will help to maintain public health and safety.

Of course we also acknowledge there are many issues left unanswered; many concerns and questions left unresolved.

For instance, we know that alongside being young and male, a high proportion, some 70% of Maori casualties were from areas with high levels of deprivation (deciles 7–10).

Such a finding highlights the need to further explore the association between the social and economic determinants of health in relation to injury and motor vehicle traffic crashes. Is it to do with the condition of the car, the quality of life, the health and educational circumstances of the driver?

The Police reports describe a particular profile of the boy racer type. Typically boy racers are male, aged between 16 and 28 years, employed and middle-class. They lack criminal histories, but have usually racked up fines for driving offences.

If we have such specific demographic detail one wonders whether we should in fact be targeting the driver rather than the car.

Then there’s the fact of the activities associated with the boy racer subculture.

Again, typically, boy racers are associated with
* alcohol consumption,
* with stunt driving, including ‘burn-outs’; ‘donuts’ and ‘drag racing’;
* with wilful and unconscious damage of public and private property;
* and with networks brought together by word of mouth, by cell-phones and car horns.

Is it the combined impact of each of these deeds that is in fact the worser evil?

Or should we be putting our energy into a comprehensive campaign on road safety, targeting all of our energies into addressing the drivers who are happy to not wear seatbelts; to speed, to drink and drive, to take risks.

Or maybe we’re targeting too late, and we should instead by promoting best practice from the moment our babies are in car seats.

In Te Tai Tonga, my colleague Rahui Katene has talked to me about the submission from Te Puawaitanga ki Otautahi Trust, which in petition to the Safer Journeys 2020 Strategy, have focused their efforts on the correct use of child restraints.

According to their sources, approximately sixteen tamariki per year die as a result of motor vehicle accidents and another 275 are hospitalised. Even after extensive campaigns to address these issues, one or two cars out of 10 still have tamariki travelling unsecured and only one in five 5 car seats is fitted properly.

Mr Speaker I have taken us on rather a rapid gallop across a whole range of strategies and interventions in the broader area of road safety, because I believe we must be innovative in looking at all areas of public health and safety concern, if we want to improve on outcomes.

Ultimately I guess the real success of the legislation we are voting for tonight, will be in the immediate outcomes we can measure in mortality statistics; in hospitalisation statistics; in rehabilitation data.

It is in the interests of the health and wellbeing then, of all our whanau, that we vote for this Bill at this its third reading today.


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