|25 March 1998|
Council Asks High Court to Clarify Road Ownership
In a move which will have vital implications for the roading reform process, the Christchurch City Council will seek a declaration from the High Court that the Governments proposed commercial model for roads is inconsistent with longstanding legal rights held by the public.
Establishing who has the right to access and use the roads will help set the parameters within which road reform can take place, said Chair of the Christchurch City Council Strategy and Resources Committee Cr David Close.
Public access to our system of roads is a fundamental right under common law, dating back over 800 years.
The Council is seeking a declaration from the High Court that any transfer of ownership to a company or companies contravenes the long-standing legal right of members of the public to use the roads.
Council has a duty on behalf of Christchurch ratepayers and residents to establish precisely what the legal situation is relating to ownership of Christchurch roads. This application to the courts will establish that situation.
Finding out the precise legal situation will help central government, local government and everyone else involved in the reform process, said Cr Close.
Cr Close said that, if passed into law, the reforms recommended by the Governments Roading Advisory Group may permanently extinguish legal rights of passage and access to the roads, established as far back as the 11th Century.
According to research undertaken for the Council earlier this month, public opinion overwhelmingly supports the notion of public ownership of the roads. To protect this fundamental right, local government and central government only own the roads on behalf of the public. They do not own them in a way that they can sell them or give them away.
We are seeking judgement to determine a point which would otherwise require clarification much further down the track, at which point unstitching any legislation passed without recognising the potential error would have involved huge cost.
We agree changes are needed to the roading system, particularly to achieve equity in funding. Christchurch has developed an alternative model which we believe would meet the Governments objectives, maintain local control of local roads, preserve democratic accountability and be acceptable to the people of New Zealand without extinguishing any fundamental rights, said Cr Close.
For further information
Cr David Close
Tel. 025 227 2916