The news that safety upgrades on ‘Wellington’s most dangerous road’ have been delayed indefinitely is incredibly disappointing and flies in the face of the Government’s alleged commitment to road safety, says MP for Hutt South Chris Bishop.
“The construction of two roundabouts on State Highway 58 have been delayed, despite funding previously been approved.
“But NZTA says SH58 is Wellington’s most dangerous road.
“These upgrades to SH58 were meant to be in place by the time Transmission Gully opens, but that is now in doubt.
“This afternoon I questioned Road Safety Minister Julie Anne Genter about the delayed safety upgrades and she was unable give a straight answer about why these important projects have been delayed.
“The AA, the Road Safety Forum, and many Wellington residents are very concerned about the safety upgrade delays. The Government says road safety is one of their highest priorities but will not put money where their mouth is.
“The delayed safety upgrades comes on the back of news that the new Melling Interchange has been delayed until 2028 or later, Petone to Grenada has been effectively cancelled, and the Cross Valley Link is on the never-never.
“The Government is failing Wellington and the Hutt Valley.”
The Government needs to explain why the Budget contains a $10 million funding cut for Police to deliver the Road Safety Programmes, National’s Spokesperson for Police Chris Bishop says
“The Government has repeatedly said that it has made road safety one of its highest priorities.
“However, Budget 2019 appropriates spending of $331 million in Vote Police to cover the delivery of services outlined in the New Zealand Road Safety Programme directed towards the achievement of the road safety outcomes, down from $341 million in 2018/19 – a cut of nearly $10 million.
“This will mean fewer traffic cops on the road, fewer breath tests, and less enforcement of our driving laws. None of this enhances ‘wellbeing’, particularly when the Government has a ‘Vision Zero’ target for the road toll and has boasted that it has made road safety one of its highest priorities.
“This is yet another example of Government rhetoric being on a collision course with actual facts. Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter and Police Minister Stuart Nash need to explain how they have overseen a funding cut to Road Safety.”
Police Minister Stuart Nash owes New Zealanders an explanation about whether Police have had to buy back the guns that were stolen when they left the backdoor open, National’s Police spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“Mr Nash and the Prime Minister said New Zealanders could hand their firearms into Police following the Christchurch terrorist attacks. But they didn’t check first whether Police could securely hold them.
“Last month 11 guns were stolen from Palmerston North Police Station, after a back door to the station was left open.
“National understands that to get back eight of the 11 guns that were stolen from Palmerston North Police Station, Police had to pay to get them back. Mr Nash refused to say whether or not Police paid for the return of the guns, despite being asked twice in Parliament today.
“The Minister needs to be honest about what has happened here. It would be deeply embarrassing for the Government’s gun buyback scheme to start by paying criminals for weapons stolen from a police station.”
Budget 2019 must appropriate money for the innovative and successful family violence intervention programme known as the Integrated Safety Response (ISR), says National’s Police spokesperson Chris Bishop.
“The programme was established by the previous National-led government and has been running in two pilot sites (Christchurch and Hamilton) since mid-2016. But funding is set to run out by 30 June 2019.
“ISR is a multi-agency programme that works to ensure the immediate safety of victims and children, and to work with perpetrators to prevent further violence. Key features include dedicated staff, funded specialist services for victims and perpetrators, and an intensive case management approach to collectively work with high risk families.
“An evaluation report in 2017 showed that the level of seriousness and frequency of family violence incidents reduced significantly in the six months after people came into contact with the pilot. So far 75,500 individuals have been through the ISR system, with 31,381 family safety plans created.
“The Government has talked a big game on family violence reduction, but so far have delivered little in the way of tangible improvements. National’s intention was always to roll out ISR around the country after the pilot period, and this Government should follow National’s lead.
“The Government missed an opportunity to strengthen and expand the ISR in last year’s Budget and they must not miss this chance again.
“They should be looking at expanding this successful programme around the country, rather than leaving providers in limbo waiting for new money.”
The Government is way behind on its commitment to adding 1800 new police over three years and the Police Minister needs at least another $216 million in Budget 2019 to even get close, National’s Police spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“Stuart Nash has said he will count the new cops added by the Government from when the new Government took office, and has said he will take account of the number of cops leaving the force at the same time. Using his numbers, just 496 net new police have been added since 1 November 2017. The Government is miles away from meeting its coalition commitment before the next election.
“Winston Peters tried to laugh off the failure today in Question Time, and talked a lot about the number of new police being trained – but the facts are simple, just 496 net new police have been added since 1 November 2017.
“The Government is also facing huge fiscal pressure in funding Police. Advice to the Minister in 2018 was that $515.3 million was needed over four years to meet his target of 1800 new police in three years. Only $299 million was appropriated in Budget 2018, and Stuart Nash is on record saying he will need to go back to Finance Minister Grant Robertson to be ‘topped-up’ in future years.
“Mr Nash is going to need a lot of topping up - $216 million to be precise. Winston Peters couldn’t commit to that figure today in Question Time, throwing the Government’s commitment to this flagship target into question.”
Police Minister Stuart Nash has been caught out quibbling with words and semantics rather than admitting to the public a secret list of more than 100 people being actively monitored by police has been leaked to media, National’s Police spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“This is a very serious matter. Yesterday Mr Nash was repeatedly questioned in Parliament about the disclosure to Stuff of a top-secret watch-list of more than 100 people being actively monitored by police post the events of 15 March.
“Rather that confirming the leak, expressing concern and ordering an inquiry, Mr Nash essentially denied a leak had taken place.
“Mr Nash could and should have told Parliament yesterday that the Commissioner of Police had that morning ordered an investigation into the matter – but he didn’t.
“The Police Commissioner this morning confirmed the unauthorised disclosure of the list to media, by saying ‘the disclosure of this information is of significant concern to Police and we are taking this matter very seriously.’
Unlike the Police, Mr Nash is not taking this matter seriously at all.
“Mr Nash’s performance in Question Time today beggars belief. He justified his answers yesterday on the basis that the information was not ‘top-secret’, quibbling over the precise terminology applied to the information, and said that the disclosure to media was not a ‘leak’.
“Mr Nash needs to stop playing semantics and be up front and honest about exactly what has happened. This is a deeply concerning matter, as the Commissioner says. Why did he wait until Wednesday to finally confirm the leak, and why isn’t he taking it seriously? Why didn’t he tell Parliament yesterday an inquiry was underway – or did the Commissioner order it and not tell him?
The Government is well behind on its target to boost the number of sworn frontline Police by 1800 by 2020, National’s Police spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“This is yet another target that hasn’t been reached by the Government. So far there are an additional 496 Police, measured from 1 November 2017 when the Government took office and taking into account attrition in the force.
“These Police would have been added anyway after the National Government invested an additional $503 million in making our communities safe in Budget 2017.
“The Government simply has no show of adding 1800 extra Police by November 2020. Stuart Nash is trying to pull a fast one by counting his cops from 1 July 2017 – when the election campaign had not even started.
“Failure to deliver on promises is a recurrent theme of this Government. Witness the number of KiwiBuild houses, the cost of the City Rail Link, the number of people entering tertiary education and jobs created by the Shane Jones slush fund.
“I’m all for more Police but we need to be realistic. New Zealanders deserve a Government that is open, transparent and sets achievable goals which improve our country.
“In addition, this Government has dropped our target of 95 per cent of New Zealanders living within 25 kilometres of a 24/7 Police station, which would have made New Zealanders safer.”
National is reaching out to the Government to ask it to take another look at laws that would help police take firearms off gang members and make it clear gang members can never get a firearms license, National’s Police spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“In the past few days there have been news reports that gang members will refuse to give up their firearms, even when new laws are introduced which will make many of those weapons illegal.
“This attitude demonstrates exactly why Police need the power to issue Firearms Prohibition Orders. If law-abiding and legitimate users of firearms like hunters, farmers and shooters can give up their weapons, then so can gangs.
“The introduction of Firearms Prohibition Orders (FPOs) were recommended by the 2017 Select Committee Inquiry and have previously been supported by the current Police Minister Stuart Nash. The Police Briefing for the Incoming Minister in 2017 also provided support for Firearms Prohibition Orders.
“In the new spirit of bipartisanship following the appalling events in Christchurch I have written to Mr Nash asking him to work with National to include Firearms Prohibition Orders in the current Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines and Parts) Amendment Bill before the House.
“The Government voted my Bill down when it went before Parliament last year, but the Christchurch attacks have changed this country and it’s the right time to take action.
“A Firearms Prohibition Order, similar to what is available in New South Wales and two other Australian states, will widen the powers available to Police to search the homes and cars of serious, violent gang members for firearms.
“FPOs will only apply to a small group of the most dangerous gang offenders who have convictions for firearms offences or serious violence. When Police have reason to believe an FPO has been breached or an offence has occurred, they will be able to search gang member, their vehicles or premises to look for illegal firearms.
“We estimate around 600 gang members will be eligible for the order but it will be up to the Police Commissioner to decide how to prioritise the most serious offenders within that group. These people pay no attention to needing a firearms licence, so we need to be able to search them to ensure that they don’t have access to illegal firearms.
“National is calling on the Government to work constructively with us so that we can take firearms off some of society’s most dangerous criminals.”
Continuing issues with Wellington’s public transport system, including driver shortages and service cut backs, demand a genuine response from central Government, local National Party Wellington-based MPs say.
Associate Transport spokesperson Brett Hudson, MP for Hutt South Chris Bishop and National List MP based in Wellington Nicola Willis, are calling for the Government to appoint a Crown Observer to help to resolve the long running bus services issues across Wellington.
“The Regional Council is responsible for the delivery of public transport, but their ‘big bang’ reform of the bus system has blown up in the faces of the very Wellingtonians who rely on that system, compromising their work, their lives and undermining confidence in the services,” Mr Hudson says.
“The Regional Council is responsible for creating this situation and has had eight months to fix it. On Friday I met with representatives of the Council to seek assurances about these matters. I left that meeting even more convinced that the Council needs help,” Ms Willis says.
“The Government can no longer ignore these issues, it must act in the interests of Wellington bus users and urgently appoint a Crown Observer to help the Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) sort this out.
“A Crown Observer would have the power to assist the GWRC to resolve these problems, to monitor progress and to make recommendations to the Government about further action that may be needed.
“Ministers must not continue to look the other way while bus users continue to be left in the lurch,” Ms Willis says.
“Transport Minister Phil Twyford declined to get involved when the Wellington bus service problems emerged last year. Every day he has delayed action, people in the Hutt Valley have equally been affected,” Mr Bishop says.
“It’s simply not good enough for central Government to sit on its hands and allow people across our city and region to be impacted by poor decisions by Regional Council,” Mr Bishop says.
“Taxpayers up and down the country pay petrol taxes that are used to fund public transport systems like Wellington’s and they deserve to know that their taxes are being spent wisely,” Mr Hudson says.
“While the Government is happy to be hands on, tinkering to try to make unviable light rail systems seem otherwise, it’s all care and no responsibility when it comes to the services taxpayers are actually funding.
“Wellingtonians, New Zealanders, deserve better,” Mr Hudson says.
National Police spokesperson Chris Bishop says there are big risks in the major shake-up to firearms administration released to Arms Officers yesterday and leaked to National.
The Police are proposing:
- All firearms activity and personnel will be managed by, and report to the Arms Act Service Delivery Group;
- That firearms administration tasks will be moved away from districts and towards central management;
- To establish a new national Service Centre, based in Kapiti, to manage end-to-end firearms administration; and
- Disestablishing hundreds of field-based arms officer and firearms licensing vettors; replacing them with a far fewer number of new positions at lower pay-scales.
“Some of the changes look sensible in principle, including moving some administration from the districts and the new national service centre. However, the firearms community will be rightly worried about the massive loss of institutional expertise through the disestablishment of arms officers and licensing vetting officers.
“Only six weeks has been allowed for consultation which is a pitiful amount of time given the large changes proposed.
“Many arms officers have been doing this very important work for years and have built up decades of expertise and knowledge. They’re one of the reasons New Zealand’s firearms administration is regarded as one of the best in the world.
“This looks like cost-cutting driven by a Police Minister who can’t get new money needed for firearms administration through the Cabinet. Instead of putting more money into the system and working on sensible changes; the Minister has driven the Police to propose a major shake-up with big risks to New Zealand’s excellent system.
“The proposal released by the Police yesterday wasn’t consulted on with the sector and has come totally out of the blue. I’ve received many calls already from people concerned about what the changes mean. Police Minister Stuart Nash must front-up and explain these changes to the firearms community and the New Zealand public.”