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Changes could threaten the accessbility of transport

Gerri Pomeroy returns to talk about Government changes that may limit the ability of disabled people and others to have a say on transport.

Gerri also talks about what you can do about it. If you missed her previous post on transport you can find it here. It provides good background for today’s blog.

The Government is planning to change the Land Transport Management Act. The Land Transport Management Act determines how roading, pedestrian, and public transport projects are planned, managed, and approved. I think as a community, we should all be concerned about the changes.

The Government says the aim of the changes is to streamline the act and reduce red tape. Reducing red tape sounds like a good thing, however, one of big changes of the act is removing the Access and Mobility and other representatives from regional transport committees. Access and Mobility representatives play a vital role on these committees by raising the importance of designing transport infrastructure so that everyone can use it. If transport is useable by everyone then all people can be included in the community.  

Many of these representatives have a lived experience of disability and rely on accessible public transport, footpaths and the Total Mobility Scheme to get around. The value of the personal relationships created at the regional transport committees is enormous as until people experience disability they frequently don’t realise the barriers and difficulties that a traditionally engineered transport system can create for disabled people.

Below is a diagram of the changes based on a table done by the Ministry of Transport.

Current regional transport committee New committee layout
Regional council representatives (Voting)Territorial authority representatives (Voting)
New Zealand Transport representative (Voting)
Economic development representative
Safety and security representative
Access and mobility representative
Public Health representative
Economic sustainability representative
Cultural representative
Regional council representative (Voting)
Territorial authority representative (Voting)
New Zealand Transport representative (Voting)

The role of the non-voting representatives is to provide advice, not vote, so it is difficult to see how removing them will significantly streamline the process. The meetings may be shorter, but only because a wide variety of views won’t be heard.

The other big change is the removal of a range of criteria to be considered when making decisions about transport projects. Currently, a range of criteria must be considered including environmental sustainability, assisting economic development, and access and mobility. Under the changes, new projects will just have to consider a tiny list of being effective, efficient and safe.

The end result of the changes is that fewer views will be heard and a narrower range of criteria considered. The Ministry of Transport says people will still be able to express views through their councillors. I feel this is a poor substitute for having experts on the committee who can not only give views, but also respond to questions from the other members. I also can’t help, but feel that these changes shift power towards the New Zealand Transport Agency. The other members are all elected councillors who will usually not have expert knowledge on transport. The only expert left on the committees will be a New Zealand Transport Agency member who will represent Central Government.

The stakes are high for those who have difficulty accessing transport. The Human Rights Commission in their Accessible Journey report stated

The lack of accessible public land transport is one of the biggest barriers to active participation in society faced by disabled people today.”

The Human Rights Commission went on to recommend:

That the transport needs of disabled people be considered as a core and mandatory requirement for all public land transport planning, funding and implementation.”

The proposed changes take us even further from that goal.
So far the Ministry of Transport has only consulted Local Government New Zealand, the Automobile Association of New Zealand (AA) and the Road Transport Forum about the changes. This is, unfortunately, a common theme in recent transport policy changes. For example, so far the only organisations that have been consulted for the new Public Transport Operating Model have been the New Zealand Transport Agency, regional councils, the New Zealand Bus and Coach Association and bus and ferry companies.

The Government doesn’t seem to see the value of consulting the people who actually use public transport and transport infrastructure, in particular disabled people who have fewer transport options available to them than others. It is important to consult bus companies and councils, but we also need to know that all people will actually be able to use the infrastructure and services provided.

Given the Government’s focus on encouraging disabled people to get off benefits and back to work, it is surprising that little thought is being given to how they will get to work. 

What can we do about it?
So hopefully, I have got you interested in the proposed changes, but what can we do about it? The changes will be before parliament at some stage. Hopefully, then we can all submit on the proposals. In the meantime, there are plenty of other ways to get involved. Just being informed about the changes is important. This can be as simple as taking some time to visit the Ministry of Transport’s website and read the questions and answers.
If you have a view on the changes tell your local regional councillors or MPs about it. You can also write to the Government Minister in charge of transport, Hon Gerry Brownlee.

I fully encourage you to get involved. Most people, at some point in their lives, are temporarily disabled. Older people gradually become more impaired and lose independent access to private cars and some of us live with a permanent disability that changes our ability to move independently around our community for the rest of our lives.

Kind Regards


5 Responses to “Changes could threaten the accessbility of transport”

  1. BRMBRM says:

    This is terrible, the government supposedly wants to advance the lives of disabled people who are amongst the most discriminated in society in employment prospects, incomes, etc. A number of disabled people are currently on fixed or reduced incomes and don’t even have the opportunity of walking or cycling, etc, let alone be able to afford to purchase or indeed run a motor vehicle. If this government are serious about improving the lives of disabled citizens, they must include disability considerations in the design and management of public transport, toward which we all contribute. “Leaving it to the market” just won’t work in this case or the disabled employment statistics wouldn’t be so dire.

    • Thanks for your comment. I totally agree, which is why I decided to do this blog post. Please tell everyone you know about the changes and encourage them to write to the Minister of Transport, Gerry Brownlee.

      • Janice Barron says:

        I cannot believe that we live in the year 2012.
        Progress is mind-boggling in so many areas,
        yet we still have to fight for access?

        • It would be interesting to know how other developed countries provide transport access to disabled people. The German Minister of Finance is in a wheelchair, for instance,so I am sure he must be a voice for disabled people in German politics.
          John Austin

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