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Christchurch City Council Media Release Thursday 26 March 1998

Council Legal Opinion About Rights, Not Privatisation

“The Minister of Transport’s response further indicates that there is a great gulf between the advice he is receiving and the Christchurch City Council’s understanding of the nature of roads”, says Councillor David Close, responding to criticisms made by Maurice Williamson yesterday. “His negative response to Council’s decision yesterday to seek resolution of this matter in the High Court again shows he does not appreciate the risk to the basic rights of all New Zealanders”.

Commenting on a unanimous decision taken at a meeting of the Christchurch City Council yesterday, Maurice Williamson, Minister of Transport, and a number of the Council critics have accused the Council of misunderstanding the issue of the Government’s proposed roading reforms.

“We are seeking a declaration from the High Court because we believe the Roading Advisory Group does not fully understand the issues involved. Our legal opinion is that rights of access and rights of passage — rights that have been fundamental in our legal system for over 800 years — will be permanently extinguished if the ownership of roads is vested in a company. This will occur regardless of whether that company is publicly or privately owned.

“All New Zealanders take it for granted that they can use the roads. This is a fundamental constitutional right which we all enjoy because the roads are owned by the people for the common benefit of us all. If the ownership of the roads were transferred to a company, that company would then be legally able to prevent anyone from using the roads, for example those who were unwilling or unable to pay a charge that the company may levy for use of the roads. In other words, it would become a privilege to use the roads, rather than a fundamental right, which has been the case for over 800 years. Privileges can be denied, rights cannot.

“Our legal opinion is that the right will change to a privilege as soon as the roads are transferred away from common public ownership — whether they are owned by the Crown, local authorities or any form of commercial company.

“That is what the Minister and the Roading Advisory Group do not understand. That is why we have requested an urgent meeting with Mr Williamson before we make an application to the High Court,” said Councillor Close.

For further information:

Councillor David Close

Phone 025-227-2916

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