by Gareth Hughes
A few months ago I wrote a draft submission on the Government Policy Statement on Land Transport funding and encouraged members of the public to send it in.
Normally, I generally don’t encourage people to make form submissions on a topic but because the issue of land transport funding is pretty technical I wanted to make it as easy for people to participate in this process as possible.
The current GPS controls the allocation of $38 billion worth of funds and is incredibly unbalanced towards motorways, so I thought it was important to make New Zealanders aware of that.
I was pretty horrified at how few people made submissions on the 2009-2012 GPS, despite the fact that it affected the distribution of literally billions of dollars of New Zealand taxpayers money.
This time around over 420 people used my form to make submissions. Another 50 also made their own, independent submissions.
However, I was less impressed by reading the summary of submissions because it sounded as if the Minister virtually discarded all these form submissions. I can understand his point that a form submission is probably not as valuable as a unique one. But, I think they should still count for something.
And judging by the changes between the draft and final GPS (very few) he also seems to have disregarded almost every one of the 50 unique submissions that came from the public, or as he likes to call them, “non-stakeholders”.
So who were the stakeholders? They were the 44 businesses and organizations the Minister deemed important enough to consult.
The list of those consulted is revealing. It includes 17 councils, 11 organizations and companies that represent road users or have as a primary focus road construction, just 1 company to represent rail interests (Kiwirail), 1 organization to represent the bus companies (the Bus and Coach Association), and 3 organizations to represent walking and cycling interests.
Not one group that represented the interests of public transport users was included in the stakeholder list, even though the Campaign for Better Transport (which represents bus and train users in Auckland and Waikato) made an unsolicited submission.
This process shows clearly the the Minister’s disregard for public opinion and lack of interest in genuine consultation.
In fact, after a few years in Parliament I’ve begun to wonder why it is that the distribution of the fuel tax is left so much to the control of one Minister with virtually no scrutiny by Parliament or the public.
What do you think? Do you think that there should be more democratic control and oversight of the National Land Transport Fund? And, if so, what do you think is the best way of achieving that?