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Christchurch City Council Media Release Tuesday 19 May 1998

Research Reveals Fundamental Flaws
in Road Reform Proposals — O’Rourke

Questions about political affiliation asked in secret research carried out by the Ministry of Transport for the government’s Roading Advisory Group (RAG) raise major concerns about the government’s motivation for roading reform, says a senior Christchurch City Councillor.

The Ministry of Transport commissioned research, carried out last August and uncovered this week under the Official Information Act, analyses which political party respondents voted for, then records answers to each question according to party support. Results show different attitudes among supporters of different political parties.

Chair of the Council’s City Services Committee Denis O’Rourke says the research begs serious questions about the neutrality of the RAG report and exactly what any reforms announced in the future are to be based on.

"Using Ministry of Transport funded research to analyse public opinion by political affiliation is extremely irregular. It suggests the RAG report was simply set up by the government and the Ministry to develop ideologically pre-ordained reforms — not a ‘safe, sustainable, fair and efficient road system at reasonable cost’, which was its brief.

"This research suggests the true rationale of RAG’s work was the desire of government to produce a policy which would find favour with its voters and to seek political advantage by polarising public opinion — not to develop a model representative of the best interests of all New Zealanders.

"While the Ministry may be backing away from some details of the RAG report, we have to question whether any new model for roading in New Zealand will also be based on this clearly skewed information.

"Carrying out covert research such as this discredits the whole road reform process. It completely undermines any pretence of the government that their policy making process is based on transparent, comprehensive and robust consultation.

Commenting further on the secret research, Councillor O’Rourke said its findings were not correctly interpreted by the RAG report:

"Mr McLay’s foreword to the RAG report said the research showed ‘widespread agreement’ to reform the current road system and gave ‘a clear mandate for change’.

"In fact the survey, as released today, asked no such questions and showed no such conclusion. What it did show is that 65 per cent of New Zealanders believe it is fair to expect road users to pay towards the cost of providing a nation-wide road network of roads — therefore endorsing the fairness of the current system.

"It also showed a majority (51 per cent) would not pay extra to use specific roads if this eased traffic congestion, which is a rejection of change in favour of the current system — opposite to the RAG recommendations, which advocate direct charging.

"Furthermore, no questions regarding the establishment of roading companies, profits, business principles, user-pays methods and regionalisation were asked. Meanwhile, proposed questions relating to road ownership and local government involvement in roading were deleted and not asked," said Councillor O’Rourke.

For further information

Councillor Denis O’Rourke

Phone 021-632-670


Appointed by then Minister of Transport Jenny Shipley, the chairman of the RAG was former National Party leader Jim McLay. Other members included Simon Arnold, then CEO of the Manufacturers Federation, now senior policy adviser to the Prime Minister; and Stewart Milne, Secretary of Transport.

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