The Auditor-General must continue to regularly report on Police culture and conduct in light of the troubling events of 2018 – specifically the Wally Haumaha saga, National’s Police spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“Today the Justice Committee considered the final report by the Auditor-General into the 2007 Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct. However, in light of the Wally Haumaha saga and the concern around its impact on Police culture, it is important that this reporting is continued.
“In 2007 the Government of the day asked the Auditor-General to report regularly on the response of the Police in terms of the culture for ten years. Today’s report is the final report and is dated 12 December 2017.
“Officials confirmed this morning they have not considered any of the events of 2018 in compiling the most recent report, including the appointment of Mr Wally Haumaha as Deputy Commissioner of Police.
“Many current and former officers have told me they are concerned about the appointment of Mr Haumaha as Deputy Commissioner and the impact it will have on the reputation of the Police force. They are concerned his appointment may set police culture back and potentially discourage victims of sexual assault from reporting crimes.
“The NZ Herald reported in June that an officer told the 2004 Operation Austin Inquiry, which sparked the Commission of Inquiry, that Mr Haumaha had described Louise Nicholas' allegations as ‘nonsense’ and that ‘nothing really happened and we have to stick together.’
“Louise Nicholas has been reported as having ‘hit the roof’ when Haumaha was appointed as Deputy Commissioner, and she has been quoted as saying of the police, ‘without the right leadership, without the right attitude towards women, they can tumble backwards.’
“Mr Haumaha has also been accused of bullying behaviour by three women who worked with him on a cross-agency justice project. The Independent Police Conduct Authority is now investigating and a State Services Commission Inquiry could still be launched, in addition to the Mary Scholtens QC Government inquiry.
“It is critical that the New Zealand Police lock in the gains of the last few years and do not slide backwards. Mr Haumaha’s appointment puts that at risk and the Auditor-General must continue to monitor their culture. I have written to the Minister of Police to ask him to encourage the Auditor-General to do just that.”
Thanks for the invitation to speak to you today. It’s been a year since Sir Bill English gave me a call and asked me to be the National Party’s Police spokesperson. It was a role that I wasn’t really expecting but one that I am absolutely loving.
As the shadow Minister for Police I really value the relationship I have with Chris and your executive team, and I’d like to thank them for their helpful advice in the year I’ve been in the role. Clearly I will not always agree with every position the Association takes and equally you won’t agree with everything I say. But we share important common commitments to New Zealanders – we want our communities to be kept safe, we want to prevent crime and we want to hold those who commit crime to account.
There’ll always be debate about how to do that; but at least we can agree that ultimately we want New Zealand to be the safest place in the world. We’ve just ticked over a year into the life of the new Government so what I’d like to talk about today is the National Party’s approach to Opposition, particularly in the field of justice and law and order. I will be critical of the government. That’s my job. But I’ll also set out some policies that National wants to put forward over the life of this Parliament, as well as some wider policy work we’re doing around Police and related portfolios.
Law and Order
The first duty of government is to protect law abiding citizens from harm – from external forces outside New Zealand and from criminals inside New Zealand who do harm to our fellow countrymen and women.
National is the party of law and order and of keeping New Zealanders safe. Our Leader Simon Bridges and our Justice Spokesperson Mark Mitchell have dedicated most of their adult lives to community safety and trying to look after those who can't always look after themselves.
Mark had a policing career, most of it as a police dog handler and member of the Armed Offenders Squad. As you probably know, Simon was a Crown Prosecutor, who helped lock up some of our worst criminals. Mark caught offenders and Simon made sure they were held to account. They and I are proud of our record in Government.
Under National we were the fourth safest country in the world. The crime rate fell 14 per cent between 2011 and 2017. Youth crime in particular fell 32 per cent. There was a 38 per cent decrease in Māori youth offending from 2010 to 2016 and a 23 per cent drop in Māori adults offending.
Many of you in this room were at the forefront of those changes. Thank you for your hard work and for your dedication.
People like to caricature National as just being “tough on crime” and all about locking people up for longer. We are totally unapologetic about saying that policies should always prioritise public safety and victim welfare. But the story that is that rarely told is the huge moves National made in Government towards preventing further crime and reducing recidivism.
Our focus was ensuring we weren’t always the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. It was about the men and women on the front line stopping the offending happening in the first place.
Of course, we can always do more, but I’m proud of what we achieved together.
We increased investment in rehabilitation programmes by 60 per cent. More than 3500 prisoners were put into education and over 4600 achieved qualifications. Almost another 9000 prisoners were put into employment, equipping offenders with practical skills for life after prison. At Rimutaka prison the inmates are building houses; learning practical skills as well as, in a small way, reducing our housing shortage.
We delivered alcohol and drug treatment to almost 22,000 offenders in the community and more than 6400 prisoners. We were and are in favour of innovative programmes that break the cycle of offending. It was National that rolled out iwi justice panels on marae around the country, including in my own patch at Waiwhetu.
It was National that championed Rangatahi Courts, where young people can take ownership of their offending in a supportive environment. Early results showed that reoffending rates of young people who attend Rangatahi courts committed 14 per cent fewer offences and 11 per cent less likely to commit a new serious offence in the following year than comparable youth.
It was National that trialled alcohol and drug treatment courts, that I was privileged to witness at Waitakere a couple of years ago. It was National that started rolling out the Family Violence Integrated Safety Response pilots. They have helped over 24,000 people keep safe through personalised family safety plans in the last year.
So I’m very proud of our record in government and I’m proud of you, our Police force.
With that in mind I’d like to talk about where the current government is going. To put it frankly, Simon, Mark and I and the rest of the Justice team are very worried about the direction of travel.
For reasons best known only to themselves, the Government has got rid of every Better Public Services target that we had for the Justice sector and replaced it with one: reducing the prison population by 30 per cent within 15 years.
I want fewer people in prison too but I don’t want public policy driven by a target of reducing the number of people in prison. I want policy driven by a target of reducing crime. That’s what we had under National and that’s what we should have now. The danger with a numerical prison target is that it drives very poor policy decisions that put the public at risk.
Things like changing our parole, bail and sentencing laws.
The reality is that 98 per cent of people are in prisons for category 3 and 4 offences. Those are those offences punishable by a sentence of two years or more, and include murder, sexual violence, and serious violent assaults.
People are not in prison for theft of a chocolate bar.
Or, despite what the PM sometimes like to claim, very few people are in prison for smoking a joint by itself. What’s more, people in our prisons have an average of 46 convictions on their criminal record. This reflects a significant number of victims.
You could reduce the prison population easily by making it easier to get parole.
But it would come at the expense of public safety. You could reduce the prison population by loosening the bail laws that we tightened. But it would come at the expense of public safety.
You could reduce the prison population easily by lowering sentences. But it would come at the expense of public safety.
The only morally and politically legitimate way to reduce the prison population is by preventing crime, and reducing recidivism. National will support all practical and useful measures that do those things. Our record speaks for itself. We will strongly oppose changes to parole, bail and sentencing laws that will reduce public safety.
Police under this government
I’d now like to talk about police policy under the current government.
My role as Opposition spokesperson for Police is to hold the government to account. My approach to the role is pretty simple. Where I think the Government is doing something wrong, I’ll say so. Where I think it’s a good idea, I’ll say that too.
I am not in politics to oppose for the sake of it. But nor am I in politics to just mindlessly go along with whatever the government wants to do. The stakes are too high and the New Zealand people deserve a contest of ideas. People often forget that good Opposition makes government better and that’s in all our interests.
So, here’s a few areas where I will be rigorous in holding the Government to account.
Number one; the 1800 new police. We obviously welcome the injection of 1800 new police, particularly because 880 of them were funded by National in Budget 2017; a point that the current Minister likes to forget.
We encourage you to read the fine-print. The 1800 are over five years, not three, as was promised after the election, and the Minister openly admits he’ll have to go and get more money from Grant Robertson in future years to pay for them. A large number are in back-office roles; not on the frontline.
Second; I am worried about police training and recruitment standards. I know many of you are as well, because you raise this issue with me personally, and I read Police News from cover to cover monthly. New Zealanders have the right to expect that every police officer on the beat is able to protect them from harm. That means we must have the highest standards of training for those wanting to become police officers.
Stuart Nash guaranteed to me in Parliament that standards would not be lowered as a result of the drive for 1800 new police. The risk of ambitious targets like 1800 new cops in just three years is that training and recruitment standards get progressively lowered so more people are let into the college and graduate; and poor behaviour is not punished, but is instead tolerated. This has already started. Most Kiwis I suspect would be surprised to hear it is no longer a requirement for police applicants to have a swimming certificate, so people who are completely unable to swim can now be accepted into Police College. In a coastal country like NZ where police are often first responders; that seems surprising.
The third area; abolition of targets.
You can’t improve what you don’t measure, and you can’t be properly held to account when you don’t collect the right information. It’s starting to look like this Government is doing that on purpose.
I’ve just talked about the justice BPS targets but we had specific measurements for the police too.
Two critical ones were 98 per cent of burglaries being attended within 48 hours and 95 per cent of New Zealanders to live within 25km of a 24/7 police station by June 2022.
Those targets were unilaterally abolished by the government.
The government has yet to give a reason for this.
Fourth; I want to mention the volunteer rural constabulary that’s been proposed by the Government. This is in the coalition agreement, so one would assume it’s an important policy, but we’ve literally heard almost nothing about it in a year.
Let me be clear: I’m opposed to giving the power of arrest to non-sworn citizens. The last thing our rural areas need is cowboy cops running around the place high with power that should be rightly be reserved for people like with you training under their belts.
I’m all in favour of volunteers helping the police. I go out on community patrol in my own patch in Wainuiomata; I’ve been out walking with the Hutt Safe City Ambassadors and seen the great work our volunteer CCTV operators do. Nobody has any problem with that; and frankly I think we could do more to support volunteer participation in keeping our communities safe.
But cowboy cops are in nobody’s interests. The Minister should rule the idea out now.
Finally in terms of areas I’m critical of the government on, I do need to mention mental health.
I know dealing with mental health is a big issue for probably all of you on the frontline.
That’s why it’s totally inexplicable the government scrapped the $8 million mental health/police co-response pilot that was planned by the previous Government.
That pilot had universal support from the health sector and from police. It would have seen mental health nurses attending mental health incidents alongside police and paramedics to ensure that people in distress receive timely responses that are tailored to their needs.
As you know, police spend around 280 hours a day responding to mental health calls and demand is increasing.
The pilot would have eased pressure on police and improved the quality of the response for those experiencing mental distress.
David Clark says the Government is waiting for the results of the Mental Health Inquiry before deciding on next steps. That inquiry has just been delayed by a month, but dollars to donuts it will recommend something like a police/mental health co-response pilot. A year will have been wasted when we could be getting on with it now.
Positive policy under National
But enough on the Government. Simon has made it clear that we’re going to take this time in Opposition to refresh ourselves and our ideas - running the ruler over our existing policies, and proposing new ones for 2020.
Should we earn the right to govern in 2020, we’ll be ready to go on day one. This Government’s 180-odd reviews and working groups so far plus the stagnation and lack of certainty shows what happens when you’re not.
We took positive policy to the election and that’s reflected in a series of Members’ Bills in the Parliamentary Ballot right now.
My colleague Matt King, the MP for Northland and a former police officer, has a Bill that has already been drawn to better punish “cowards punches”, or “king hits.” The Bill creates a new offence that means those convicted of the so-called "one punch" assaults will receive a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment.
We have another Bill around the killing of police dogs. The Bill would amend the Policing Act 2008 to increase the penalty for killing a police dog from a maximum of 2 years to a maximum of 5 years imprisonment. We know they not only help you keep New Zealanders safe, but they’re your best mates. Mark Mitchell constantly tells us fond stories about the many dogs he worked with - including when he forgot to take his dog to a job in Gisborne. Caught short, he knocked on the offenders door and told them he the dog with him, they gave themselves up and were quite unimpressed when the dog was nowhere to be seen.
You may remember that at the election we proposed a policy of creating a new category of offender called Serious Young Offenders. Our youth justice system works well for the vast majority of young offenders, but there remains a small group of around 150 young people who continue to commit large numbers of serious offences. These are young people who have been in and out of Youth Court but have shown no willingness or ability to change their behaviour. National is not prepared to just sit back and allow their victims to keep racking up until they reach adulthood.
My colleague David Bennett’s Member’s Bill will create a Young Serious Offender (YSO) classification to allow this very small group of the most hardened young offenders dealt with in ways that better reflect the seriousness of their crimes and help ensure fewer people are victimised. Judges will be able to order Young Series Offenders who commit serious offences to attend defence-led training academies to address problems like addiction or a lack of literacy and numeracy skills, helping them lead better lives while keeping the public safe.
This was a controversial policy at the election. We stand by it because we know you all need more tools to deal with some of the most difficult offenders we have.
Detailed policy work
Finally, let me tell you about three areas I’m keen to do more sophisticated and detailed policy work on in the next couple of years, working alongside my colleagues in the National Party Law and Order team.
The first is meth. Methamphetamine is an appalling scourge on our society. My attitude towards this issue is pretty simple. We need to go hard on those who peddle this addictive drug – the manufacturers, importers, suppliers and dealers.
At the same time; we need to take a rehabilitative approach to people who actually consume meth. It’s an insanely addictive and harmful substance. While people should be held to account, just locking people up for being addicted and not doing anything about the addiction is pointless. What meth users need is help to get off the drug; and support so they don’t go back to it.
I’ve been very impressed with the Te Ara Oranga programme in Northland which is taking this exact approach.
In time we should look at rolling-out this approach around the country.
Ridding New Zealand of meth is a complex public policy problem; but one I’m keen to work on. Over the next couple of years I’ll be getting around the country talking to people at the front-line of New Zealand’s meth problem, and you can expect policy from National in due course. While I’m talking drugs let me make a couple of comments on a possible referendum on recreational marijuana.
National is in favour of a comprehensive, regulated scheme to facilitate greater access to medicinal cannabis. That work was led by my colleague Dr Shane Reti, who did more work in a few months than an entire army of Health officials plus the Minister. We are proud of our proposed regime and it shows what can be done in Opposition.
We want to get our regime into law so that New Zealanders get access to quality medicinal cannabis products sooner rather than later. The issue of recreational cannabis is a conscience issue for National MPs. I’m personally opposed to addressing the issue through a referendum. We’re sent to Parliament by the people to solve public policy problems; not sub-contract them back to the people through a plebiscite.
I worry about having the referendum at the same time as the 2020 election, as has been suggested. The election campaign may become all about marijuana; or on the converse it may be completely ignored and the discussion we need to have as a community will simply be side-lined. So I’m watching how this debate unfolds with interest, as are all my colleagues.
The second area we’re going to do detailed work on is organised crime and gangs.
The number one issue raised at the recent National Party conference policy session on law and order was gangs. There were some horror stories about gangs terrorising communities; and people living in fear. I’m very concerned at the news that the Comancheros have set up in New Zealand.
I do welcome the increased commitment by the Government to this important area. As a party we’re going to be looking to see if there is more we can do to equip you as Police to crack down on the misery that gangs create in our society.
One measure we did take to the election was firearms prohibition orders. Sadly the Government just voted down my Bill to introduce these. The Bill would have allowed the Commissioner of Police to apply prohibition orders to the toughest gang members with serious offending histories. Police would have been able to search their cars and houses to look for illegal firearms.
One suggestion I’ve heard is to make it illegal to wear a gang patch in any public place illegal. Gang patches are a sign of violence – to get one you have to commit a pretty serious violent offence. The patch symbolises respect by the gang; but it’s a respect for violence and lawlessness. So we’ll have a good discussion about that over the next couple of years
Thirdly and finally is firearms.
I’ve just held my first National Party Firearms Forum in Ashburton and I’m planning on holding around 30 of these around the country in the next six months. The Arms Act is now 35 years old and is being reviewed by the Minister of Police. At some point changes will be proposed and I want to make sure I’m across the views of the 250,000 licenced firearm owners in New Zealand. The aim of the forums is to get a sense of what is working well in the current regime, and what could work better. As part of this I’ll of course be talking to the Association and Police as well.
As I said in the beginning, we have an important shared vision. That New Zealand can be, and should be, the safest place in the world to live. And Police sit at the heart of that. I am cognisant that every change we make to law and order policy has a direct frontline impact on the way you do your jobs.
That is why I am committed to working with as many of you around the country as I get out and about, and make sure that come 2020 National has done the mahi and is ready to govern and support the good work Police do in our communities every single day. Keep up the great work.
News of alleged misconduct among new police recruits has shown Police Minister Stuart Nash’s guarantee that standards of our police force wouldn’t be lowered was worthless, National’s Police spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“Today’s revelations that 10 per cent of a recently graduated Police Wing were accused of misconduct, including allegations as serious as indecent assault, intimidation and careless driving show that standards have slipped.
“Mr Nash was warned that 1800 additional police within three years was a highly ambitious target. His desperate drive to put more police on the beat quickly has meant police have lowered the standards to push more recruits through, whether they’re suitable candidates or not. Wing 318 had 100 recruits, the largest intake since 2006 – showing quantity was the aim.
“National has repeatedly questioned the Minister about the 1800 target. Stuart Nash told the Parliament he could guarantee standards would not drop under his watch and nor would entry standards.
“He was clearly wrong and the debacle of Wing 318 is his responsibility and he must take the blame for what appears to be declining behaviour and ethical standards among new recruits.
“I’ve had direct feedback from front line officers about declining standards. These officers have to serve with the people coming through. They are worried that the force’s overall service to the public will decline.
“The public have a right to expect that their Police will behave to the highest standards. While his credibility has been damaged Stuart Nash must now find a way to assure New Zealanders that this rush to 1800 extra police won’t risk public safety.”
Documents released today under the Official Information Act show Winston Peters’ Personal Explanation to Parliament is at odds with the official record, National’s Police spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“Winston Peters went out of his way to stand up in Parliament on August 7th to make a Personal Explanation about why he attended a celebration for Wally Haumaha when he was made Assistant Police Commissioner. He told Parliament he was invited to speak at Waiteti Marae by the National-led Government and Police National Headquarters.
“But Police documents today show that this is not true. The event was organised by Waiteti Marae - of which Mr Haumaha is the chairman. Mr Haumaha was also previously announced as a NZ First candidate for Rotorua.
“Mr Peters needs to explain why he went out of his way to tell Parliament that the previous National-led Government invited him to this event when this clearly wasn’t the case.
“This whole saga has been incredibly murky and it’s time Mr Peters told us the real story. This is yet another example of this Government not telling the truth and misleading the public whenever it’s under pressure.”
The State Services Commission needs to open an inquiry into how the bullying allegations levelled against Deputy Commissioner of Police Wally Haumaha were treated by three state sector agencies, National’s Police spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes wrote to me on 31 August stating that the Government Inquiry into the appointment process for a Deputy Commissioner of Police, led by Mary Scholtens QC, had confirmed that ‘it intends to investigate the allegations’ and so postponed any decision on whether to commence his own investigation.
“The inquiry this week clarified that ‘it is not investigating the truth or otherwise of the complaints against Mr Haumaha’ and that ‘the Inquiry is not concerned with whether the allegations now made had merit. That is a matter for the IPCA’.
“In light of those comments by the inquiry, it is even more urgent that Mr Hughes launch his own inquiry. There are numerous inconsistencies in the way that state sector agencies appear to regard the alleged bullying. For example, there is a factual dispute over whether any bullying took place; who actually made the allegations; and what agencies expected to happen next.
“Corrections, Justice and Police are totally at odds with each other and that is totally unacceptable. The public must have confidence that issues to do with workplace bullying will be dealt with appropriately.
“Most importantly they must have confidence that agencies will work together, not against each other, in dealing with complaints like these. On the face of it, the public cannot have that confidence, and an inquiry is therefore vital.”
Revelations that the Government has stepped in to save the Te Kūwatawata mental health service in Gisborne is great news, but only raises further questions about why the Government scrapped the Police/mental health co-response pilot planned for this year to near-universal acclaim by Police and the health sector, National’s Police spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“David Clark’s excuse for dumping the $8 million pilot, which was funded in Budget 2017, was that it would be premature to fund it while the Mental Health Inquiry was underway. This excuse was always a poor one, as has been shown by his boasting about saving the Te Kūwatawata service.
“The police/mental health co-response pilot would have seen mental health nurse attending mental health incidents alongside police and paramedics to ensure that people in distress receive timely responses that are tailored to their needs. Police spend around 280 hours a day responding to mental health calls and demand is increasing. The pilot would have eased pressure on police and improved the quality of the response for those experiencing mental distress.
“It still beggars belief that this Government would axe the potentially game-changing pilot which had universal support from those on the frontline dealing with mental health, including mental health expert Nigel Fairley who said in February that the pilot was ‘top of his spending list.’ Even Police Commissioner Mike Bush told the Justice Committee in May that he hoped the pilot would still go ahead.
“If David Clark can step in to save one mental health service while the Mental Health Inquiry is underway, why can’t he step in to save something that everyone working in the sector agrees is a great idea?”
Deputy Police Commissioner Wally Haumaha now has no choice but to stand aside after confirmation that two official complaints about alleged bullying have been lodged against him, National’s Police Spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“Mr Haumaha must stand aside or Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern should make him after it was revealed today that two women that the Deputy Commissioner is accused of bullying have made formal complaints to the Police about his conduct.
“The complaints have now been referred to the Independent Police Conduct Authority.
“It is just not tenable for Mr Haumaha to stay in the role while these official complaints are dealt with, which are on top of the independent inquiry into his appointment led by Mary Scholtens QC.
“Mr Haumaha will be working at Police HQ either in or near the same office as witnesses to his alleged bullying. Probity demands he stand aside while the inquiries take place.
“The handing of this case by the Government has been woeful from the get-go and today’s revelations just continue what has been an utter debacle for the Government.”
The coalition Government has today voted down legislation which would have given police new powers to make sure the most dangerous gang members with a history of serious crimes don’t have access to firearms, Hutt South MP Chris Bishop says.
“The Arms (Firearms Prohibition Orders) Amendment Bill, would have ensured that gang members couldn’t hold a firearms licence and allowed police to carry out searches on gang members with a history of serious crimes.
Firearms Prohibition Orders were recommended by the Law and Order Select Committee in the last Parliament, the introduction of FPOs was supported by the Police in their Briefing to the Incoming Minister and they are supported by the Police Association.
“Instead the Bill was shot down at first reading by NZ First, Labour and the Greens, despite too many firearms ending up in the hands of violent, criminal gang members.
“The Bill would have ensured that no unnecessary restrictions would have been placed on other law-abiding firearms holders.
“This legislation is in place in Australian states including New South Wales where it has been proven to work.
“The vast majority of Kiwi hunters, farmers and recreational shooters do the right thing, but criminal gang members have no respect for the law, so police need expanded powers to be able to deal with them.
“National takes the safety of our communities seriously and it’s disappointing that the coalition Government hasn’t voted for my bill which would have prevented victims and given police more powers to deal with our worst criminals.”
Today’s big announcement by Police Minister Stuart Nash and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters about 1800 new police officers is another example of spin over substance, National’s Police spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“Mr Nash trumpeted this as a massive increase in frontline sworn police officers, but the reality is that only around two thirds of the total will be deployed into Police districts and not even all of those will be frontline officers.
“This total includes the 800 extra officers delivered by the previous Government. That means this Government is only delivering an additional 420 police staff over five years and not all of those will be frontline.
“This is hardly the ‘biggest increase in Police resources’ ever as Mr Nash claims.
“The Minister is also playing fast and loose with the cost because both he and the Prime Minister have been caught out making those numbers up on the hoof.
“Mr Nash claims the package was ‘fully-funded over five years’ but he’s repeatedly said previously that the $298.8 million he received in Budget 2018 was not enough and he would be seeking more cash in 2019.
“Leaked Cabinet papers earlier in the year show that Mr Nash initially wanted $515 million to roll-out the new police, so there is a $217 million gap he will need to fill. At least he’s not saying the package will cost ‘just $40 million a year’ as Prime Minister Ardern did.
“Mr Nash has also finally confirmed the 1800 new police will be rolled-out over five years, in spite of Mr Nash’s repeated denials. He was either wrong or he’s been overruled.
“Finally, while more police is great, it’s very disappointing the Government has dropped the additional targets National set for the police as part of our Safer Communities package.
“Labour and NZ First have officially dropped the target of 98 per cent of all burglaries being responded to within 48 hours and for 95 per cent of New Zealanders to live within 25km of 24/7 patrolling police. Those would have made a real difference to the safety of our communities but the Government is not willing to hold itself to account.”
The Government must come clean on what its new transport plan and its focus on building a new tram in Auckland at the expense of regional roads means for the future of the important Petone to Grenada Link Road, National’s Chris Bishop and Brett Hudson say.
“The New Zealand Transport Agency has issued a project newsletter this week titled ‘Shift in government transport priorities prompts fresh look at P2G’ which confirms this important project is under serious threat, yet the Government has kept quiet on this,” Mr Bishop says.
“This is because the Government’s cuts to state highway funding to fund trams along Dominion Road in Auckland are now starting to bite, with residents of Ōhāriu and the Hutt first to be hurt.
“The Petone to Grenada Link Road would significantly add to regional roading resilience in Wellington, while unlocking productivity and commercial opportunities for the Hutt Valley. It would also ease congestion for residents of Ōhāriu and the Hutt traveling to and from Wellington.”
“It’s been estimated up to 20,000 vehicle movements per day could be transferred from State Highway 1 to the P2G link road,” Mr Hudson says.
“That would have a major impact on congestion along State Highway 1 from Tawa south to Ngauranga Gorge, benefiting the bulk of the population of Ōhāriu and freeing up traffic movements across the wider city.
“It needs to go ahead. P2G is a vital project and should be developed along with the Cross Valley Link road in the Hutt which would link to the east of the Hutt Valley where heavy industry is located, making it easier to do business and to get around.
“Now this vital project is under serious threat because of Labour’s new transport policy settings. The Government promised New Zealanders the balance wouldn’t be tipped too far in favour of Aucklanders at the expense of the rest of the country. That promise is looking increasingly hollow and they need to front up.”