The Ombudsman has poured cold water on the Government’s desperate attempt to stop the public from seeing Julie Anne Genter’s secret Let’s Get Wellington Moving letter, National’s Transport spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“On the back of my enquiries, Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier has today made public the ruling that Associate Transport Minister has been using as a shield to keep her letter secret.
“Julie Anne Genter now has no reason not to release her letter after the Ombudsman made it clear the Official Information Act only offers protection for free and frank correspondence between political parties, not between Ministers.
“She has already confirmed she wrote to Transport Minister Phil Twyford in her ministerial capacity, weeks before construction of Wellington’s second Mt Victoria Tunnel was pushed back by at least a decade.
“We then saw a complete farce in Parliament last week as both Phil Twyford and Leader of the House Chris Hipkins tried to bamboozle the Speaker of the House by hiding behind the Ombudsman’s ruling – but the Speaker was having none of it.
“Taxpayers and ratepayers are being asked to cough up $6.4 billion to pay for Let’s Get Wellington Moving and they deserve to know how much Julie Anne Genter tinkered with the project before it was signed off.
“She needs to start being open and transparent, and release her letter now.”
The Ombudsman’s ruling can be found here
The Government needs to stop hiding behind spurious arguments for not releasing the secret letter between Ministers that dramatically altered Wellington’s transport future, National’s Transport spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“Transport Minister Phil Twyford needs to explain his role in what is increasingly looking like a Government cover-up.
“The refusal of Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter to release the letter she sent Twyford weeks before the Government pushed back construction of Wellington’s second Mt Victoria Tunnel for at least a decade led to farcical scenes in Parliament today.
“It has become so serious that even the Speaker of the House isn’t convinced by the Government’s justification and is seeking advice from the Chief Ombudsman.
“In answers to Parliamentary Written Questions, Julie Anne Genter confirmed both she and Phil Twyford were communicating as Ministers. That makes the letter subject to the Official Information Act and leaves her with no argument for keeping it hidden a second longer.
“As the Speaker himself noted in Parliament today, he regularly obtained letters between Ministers when he was in Opposition.
“If the Government has nothing to hide then why is it going to so much effort to keep the public from seeing how much the Greens influenced Let’s Get Wellington Moving?
“It’s a slap in the face to Wellingtonians if it thinks there’s no public interest in a document that discusses $6.4 billion in taxpayer spending and 20-plus years of transport projects.
“My colleague, Wellington-based MP Nicola Willis, has once again written to the Ombudsman requesting this letter be released in light of the significant public interest in its contents.
“It’s looking like we can add the Government’s pledge to be ‘the most open and transparent ever’ to its list of broken promises.”
Parliamentary debate on whether the letter is subject to the OIA can be found here
Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter must release the letter she sent to Transport Minister Phil Twyford before he pushed construction of Wellington’s second Mt Victoria Tunnel back a decade, National’s Transport spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“Julie Anne Genter’s political legacy could well be as the Associate Transport Minister who stopped Wellington moving for a decade.
“She confirmed in Parliament today that the letter she sent Transport Minister Phil Twyford weeks before the Let’s Get Wellington Moving package was announced related to ‘concerns’ about the sequencing of projects, particularly the second Mt Victoria Tunnel.
“It took a Parliamentary question on notice today for Julie Anne Genter to finally acknowledge what everyone suspected – her concerns about the second Mt Victoria Tunnel saw it pushed off into the never-never of the Let’s Get Wellington Moving package.
“The tunnel may not even be allowed to take private cars if it is ever built.
“Julie Anne Genter now needs to release the full letter so Wellingtonians can see for themselves what she demanded of Twyford in exchange for her support of the package.
“This Government’s claim to be the most open and transparent ever is becoming more laughable by the day. She is deluded if she thinks there is no public interest in a letter between Ministers that discusses $6.4 billion in taxpayer spending and 20-plus years of Wellington transport projects.
Here is what we know:
- The Let’s Get Wellington Moving recommended programme of investment proposed a second Mt Victoria tunnel be built between 2024 and 2029.
- A second Mt Victoria Tunnel was the third most-popular project consulted on by the LWGM group.
- A draft Cabinet Paper on LGWM was circulated on March 25. Julie Anne Genter wrote to Phil Twyford two days later.
- Minister Twyford then requested an aide memoire on options for walking and cycling in the Mt Victoria Tunnel and on potential timing of the roading vs public transport projects.
- A further memo was requested on April 5 about “Potential downsides of removing or delaying the second Mt Victoria Tunnel”.
- When the final LGWM package was announced in May, completion of the second Mt Victoria Tunnel had been pushed back to between 2030 and 2034.
“Julie Anne Genter now needs to come clean and admit to Wellingtonians that a second Mt Victoria Tunnel is at least 10 years away because she demanded it.”
The Government must be closet fans of National’s transport policies after all, given how much pride it took today in announcing the completion of seven road safety projects that started under us, National’s Transport spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so to watch Jacinda Ardern and Phil Twyford stand on SH3, between Ohaupo and Te Awamutu, and claim credit for seeing National’s road safety initiatives through to the end was heart-warming.
“I was glad to hear the new safety barriers have prevented deaths and serious injuries, because that’s exactly what Transport Minister Simon Bridges predicted would happen in December 2016 when he announced $4.8 million for the project.
“My concern is that once the Government is done putting the finishing touches on National’s good ideas it won’t have much to do, given it is ideologically opposed to building roads.
“Safety upgrades are vitally important to combat our rising road toll, which is why councils across the country are crying out for the Government to spend money on new roads, only to be told there’s no money left because it has all been funnelled into Auckland’s light rail.
“Today’s announcement contained no more money for road safety above what was announced last year – just a heads-up that the budget will be spread thinner.
“But if Transport Minister Phil Twyford and his associate Julie Anne Genter are short of a few good ideas about what to do in transport, I’m happy to help them out.
“A couple of tips to start would be to get over their aversion to road building, stop taxing motorists so heavily, and stop turning a blind eye to regional roads in desperate need of repair, like SH58 from Pauatahanui to Upper Hutt.”
Note: The seven completed projects in the greater Waikato, started under National:
Hutt Valley residents have sent a strong message to the Government that it needs to wake up, see sense, and build the Melling Interchange, Hutt South MP Chris Bishop says.
“It’s ridiculous, quite frankly, that the Government has delayed construction of this important State Highway 2 project until at least 2028 despite it being crucial for the Hutt’s prosperity and Transport Minister Phil Twyford admitting it ‘ticks all the boxes’ for funding.
“The project had NZTA approval until Phil Twyford came along. His delay is a slap in the face to the Hutt Valley. The 500 or so people who showed up to my Rally for Melling today made that clear. They can’t wait a decade for this project to go ahead.
“Not only is the Melling Interchange critical for easing SH2 congestion, improving road safety and upgrading the local railway station, it’s also needed to pave the way for the Riverlink project, which will increase Lower Hutt’s flood protection and revitalise its CBD.
“Hutt residents are now in the unbelievable situation of having to stump up $4 million from their own pockets to fund planning and consents for a major state highway project because the Government is too cheap.
“Phil Twyford has said there’s no money left. That’s preposterous. He’s got billions sitting in the Land Transport Fund and the $120m or so needed for Melling is a drop in the bucket.
“Hutt Valley residents deserve better. They got almost nothing out of the Let’s Get Wellington Moving transport package, which is throwing $6.4 billion at Wellington’s CBD, yet they’re being told to cover almost half the cost of that and wait a decade for any meaningful transport improvements of their own.
“The anger over this is red hot. My petition calling for action received 7000 signatures. Sods would be turning on the Melling Interchange right now if National was in Government.
“If elected in 2020, National will start construction of the Melling Interchange in our first term rather than lead people on with empty promises of funding that may never come.
“The Hutt Valley isn’t going to prosper under a Transport Minister who has short arms and deep pockets.”
Rally for Melling photos can be found here
The unwillingness of Wellington’s regional councillors to show accountability for the region’s bumbling bus network means it’s time for a Crown Observer to step in, National MPs Chris Bishop and Nicola Willis say.
“The briefing Greater Wellington Regional Council gave to the Transport and Infrastructure Select Committee today did nothing to quell concerns about continuing network failures,” Mr Bishop says.
“It is time for Transport Minister Phil Tywford to reconsider appointing a Crown Observer to oversee the network repairs and get the level of service back to where it needs to be.
“Acting regional council chairperson Barbara Donaldson appeared blind to what is going on around her, telling the committee that ‘Wellington’s bus service is in pretty good shape’.
“This is despite the council’s own data showing 37 bus services are being cancelled each day and more than 10 per cent of Wellington buses are running late. Buses in outer suburbs are also failing to meet on-time targets.
Ms Willis says a Crown Observer would have the power to help the council resolve these problems, to monitor progress and to make recommendations to the Government about further action that may be needed.
“I regularly hear stories from people waiting in the rain for buses that are delayed, overcrowded, or just haven’t shown up. I have had Wellingtonians tell me they have purchased cars for the first time in their lives due to the current unreliability problems.
“The continued buck-passing between regional councillors and city councillors is growing tiresome, with Cr Donaldson saying ‘bureaucracy moves slowly’. That’s not good enough.
“The regional council continues to show it is unable to solve these problems itself. Mr Twyford cannot continue to look the other way while bus users are left in the lurch.
“If this Government wants New Zealanders to become more reliant on public transport then it needs to ensure services are up to scratch. So far, it is failing to do this in Wellington.”
The Government’s ineptitude when it comes to transport has been on full display this week with its Ministers unable to agree on whether Auckland’s light rail will cost $4 billion or $7 billion, National’s transport spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones told a recent Parliamentary Select Committee that he’d seen estimates for the proposed City Centre to Māngere line that costed it at $7.6 billion.
“But today Transport Minister Phil Twyford said he disagreed, and thought it was more like $4 billion, although he couldn’t really say how much until the business case was done.
“So who is right and who is wrong? It’s become a $3.6 billion dollar question, and one the Government should have answered long before now.
“Phil Twyford said the business case for this project would be ready by November 2018. The fact it has been delayed this long shows his officials are struggling to make the project work on a value-for-money level.
“The Transport Minister’s pledge that he would have light rail completed to Mt Roskill within four years is looking like yet another broken promise, as almost two years on he hasn’t completed the most basic first step.
“Failing to deliver has been a theme across both of Phil Twyford’s Ministerial portfolios. This is more evidence the Prime Minister needs to either strip him of responsibilities or move him out of Cabinet altogether as part of her reshuffle.”
The proposed firearm buyback scheme announced by the Government will likely leave many owners out of pocket, undermining the legitimacy of the scheme, National’s Police spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“The feedback we have heard is that while some people are comfortable with the price list offered by the Government, thousands of people will be thousands of dollars out of pocket.
“Many people will be forced to hand over their guns at below market value which isn’t fair and isn’t right. The Government should be buying guns back at fair market value.
“The Government’s proposals put the integrity and legitimacy of the scheme at risk. If licenced firearm owners do not believe the price being paid to them is fair; they will not participate in the scheme, defeating the whole point of the buyback.
“National is the party of property rights and we believe licenced firearm owners should be compensated properly and fairly. Up until the passage of the recent Arms Amendment Act, people owned these firearms legally. Parliament has acted to make them illegal but when the Government confiscates private property, people should still be fairly compensated.
“The Government’s proposals are also troublesome in other ways. First, it looks like parts will also not be valued fairly.
“Secondly, safes are excluded. Many people have invested many thousands of dollars in high-spec safes which are now useless or irrelevant because the firearms previously stored in them will be handed back.
“Thirdly, for people with unusual or high value firearms, applications for special valuations will be at the applicant’s own expense. But the Crown should pay.
“The devil is in the detail and there will likely be thousands of people who will be thousands of dollars out of pocket. The critical thing is that the compensation scheme not only has to be fair, but it has to be seen as fair.
“This is a good attempt by the Government but falls short in many ways. The Government can and must do better.”
The Government’s much touted promise to add 1800 new frontline police officers in three years is in tatters, and looks set to be ‘reset’ a la KiwiBuild, National’s Police spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“In two years the Police have only added 472 new police to the force, taking into account attrition in the force. In recent months the number of new police officers has actually gone backwards, from 527 in March, down to 472 in June.
“Police Minister Stuart Nash and the Government committed to 1800 new police by the time of the next election, little more than a year away. Mr Nash has absolutely no chance of reaching that target and keeping his commitment to New Zealanders.
“Failure to deliver on promises is a recurring theme of this Government. KiwiBuild has only just cracked 100 houses, fees-free has been a flop and there’s been a measly 1 per cent increase in medicine funding.
“New Zealanders around the country will be disappointed at yet another broken promise by a hopeless and incompetent Government that talks big, but can’t deliver.”
MP for Hutt South Chris Bishop is inviting Hutt residents to a big Rally for Melling at Melling Station on Saturday 29 June.
The new Melling Interchange, a critical project for the Hutt Valley, has been delayed until at least 2028, despite “ticking all the boxes” in the words of the Minister of Transport.
“The delay to Melling is totally unacceptable, and we need to show NZTA and the Government just how wrong their decision is. I’m inviting the many Hutt residents who care deeply about this project to come and visibly show their support from 12.30pm on Saturday 29 June.
"Melling is a critical infrastructure project that will ease congestion, improve safety, allow for improved flood protection, and improve public transport, walking and cycling.
"It really does tick all the boxes, which is why the Government’s decision to delay funding until 2028 or later is so disappointing.
“The Rally for Melling follows on from my petition (www.chrisbishop.co.nz/melling) that thousands of Hutt residents have already signed, with numbers rising every day.
“The idea of a rally came out of my public meeting on the new interchange a couple of weeks ago. Hutt residents are fired up and want to show the Government this decision is short-sighted and wrong.
“People can indicate they’re coming on Facebook. I’m looking forward to the 29th. See you there.”