I move, That the Sentencing (Vehicle Confiscation) Amendment Bill, the Summary Proceedings (Vehicle Seizure) Amendment Bill, and the Privacy Amendment Bill be now read a third time. We are one step closer to making our streets safer. We will strengthen the powers of the courts to order the confiscation of motor vehicles, empower the courts to order the destruction of motor vehicles used by recidivist illegal street racers, and toughen the provisions to seize motor vehicles to enforce the collection of unpaid fines. We will take the fun out of illegal street racing. We will make it as difficult as possible for illegal street racers to flout the law and disrupt people’s lives. This legislation, along with the Land Transport (Enforcement Powers) Amendment Act, will crack down on those who persist in racing their cars on public streets, doing burnouts, pouring diesel on the road, and disturbing, aggravating, and endangering the general public.
During the past stages of this legislation, I have acknowledged those parties who are supporting this legislation. The members of the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee scrutinised the detail within the legislation, making good legislation better, and members of the public took the time to make a submission. I thank Parliamentary Counsel Office staff for consistently delivering high-quality legislative drafting in an efficient, professional manner. I also thank the officials from the New Zealand Police, the Ministry of Justice, and the Ministry of Transport.
This legislation has been labelled the crushing legislation because it introduces a new penalty for illegal street racing: vehicle destruction. The amendments to the Sentencing Act establish a new confiscation and destruction order, which the court can impose as a penalty for repeat illegal street racing offences.
This Government is focused on making an impact on crime. Just as the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act will hit gangs where it hurts by targeting their cash and assets, this legislation will hit boy racers where it hurts by targeting their vehicles. We have learnt from past legislation that fines do not work. Infringement notices become badges of honour stashed in the glove box without a second thought. The car is the most prized possession of the illegal street racer. If a fraction of the time boy racers took grooming and modifying their cars was put into considering the harm they do to the community, we would not have this problem. This Government has no hesitation in targeting those beloved vehicles in order for the message to be heard loud and clear that illegal street racing will not be tolerated.
The amendments to the Summary Proceedings Act also target the vehicle. We know that illegal street racers sometimes use low-value cars to commit offences. These are cheap cars, kept to be driven roughly and recklessly, with little cost to the owner when they are damaged. In the past the Summary Proceedings Act 1957 provided that vehicles were seized just to recover fines. This has meant that low-value vehicles are sometimes used repeatedly and incur fines, but are not seized, enabling the vehicle to be continually used to commit traffic offences. The purpose of the new vehicle seizure provisions is to reduce traffic offending opportunities, as well as to collect overdue fines. Low-value cars that have incurred fines will now also be seized. This will mean that those cars are no longer in the hands of offenders, and are no longer able to be continually used to illegally race and disturb the peace.
The groundwork for this legislation has closely scrutinised the existing loopholes that have been exploited by illegal street racers. One standout area is people who use the cars of others in order to avoid being caught and penalised. The amendments to the Sentencing Act authorise the confiscation of vehicles that an offender does not own or have an interest in but that a third party, who has been warned about the consequences of the offender continuing to offend in his or her vehicle, owns or has an interest in. This means that one can no longer borrow a mate’s car, pull a couple of doughnuts on a public road, and avoid the consequences. This also means that one cannot borrow a car that belongs to mum, dad, or nana for a few quick stunts when one’s own car is already impounded. Those cars are now able to be confiscated and potentially destroyed. This provision will, hopefully, make those in the community around illegal street racers more vigilant of their illicit activities. This legislation creates an environment that makes this type of offending as difficult as possible.
I will now address the issue of the discretionary confiscation of vehicles that belong to a third party. The central objective of this legislation is to significantly reduce the harm and nuisance caused to communities by illegal street racers. This has been achieved by delivering a comprehensive package of measures that include local government - controlled sanctions, measures to reduce noise, measures to reduce cruising, increased powers to inspect modified vehicles, increased driver’s-licence demerit points, and harsher penalties for illegal street racing offences. This Government has been very diligent to ensure that this legislation will impact upon illegal street racers and not on other members of the public. For this reason the courts will have the discretion to weigh up all the issues at hand and to make a fair and reasonable judgment when deciding whether to confiscate, or to confiscate and destroy, the vehicle of a third party.
An arbitrary decision that all people who have had their vehicles used to commit illegal street racing offences must be liable for vehicle confiscation and destruction will not solve this problem. The real solution lies in the comprehensive package of measures that will work in unison to effectively target illegal street racing. These new tools will further empower the police to address local illegal street racing problems with local solutions, applying well-informed operational responses that are backed up by strong laws. These tools will also empower courts to provide appropriate penalties for illegal street racers who continue to endanger their lives and the lives of others.
I now move to a matter that was raised in the Committee stage by the Opposition around the delivery of warning letters. I made the comment that these letters could be delivered by the police. That is actually in the legislation, and I am sorry that Opposition members have not bothered to read it. It is very clear that the letters can be delivered by the police, by court staff, or by people contracted to do so by the courts. It is very clear; it should not come as a surprise to Opposition members. If they had actually scrutinised the legislation, then they would know it.
In conclusion, however, I am proud to have responsibility for this legislation. It clearly responds to the demands of New Zealanders. I know this for a fact, as I have received resounding support for this legislation as I have travelled around the country. In addition to this, emails and letters have flooded in congratulating this Government on having the strength and commitment to deliver on its word. However, we are a minority Government, and we cannot pass this legislation without the support of other parties in the House. I particularly thank United Future, the ACT Party, the Māori Party, and, latterly, the Labour Party, which has now come on board.
This vehicle confiscation and seizure legislation, along with the Land Transport (Enforcement Powers) Amendment Act, will provide a comprehensive suite of legislative changes specifically designed to stop illegal street racers in their tracks. I look forward to seeing the implementation of these laws and to seeing the streets of New Zealand become safer, more peaceful, and free from the chaos that is created by illegal street racing. I commend this legislation to the House.
I wish the Minister of Police well on the aims she outlined at the conclusion of her speech. I hope they happen. I suspect every member of the House shares the same view. I hope the problem is cleaned up, and that the legislation stops the problem in its tracks, because I, my colleagues—Ruth Dyson, Lianne Dalziel, and Brendon Burns—members from Hamilton and Auckland, and everybody, in fact, suffer from this insidious sort of activity.
We have said that we will support the legislation. We believe that there are some very good provisions in it, such as the tightening up of the provisions on hardship and the closing of the loophole so that we can go after a third party. We disagree on how that provision is being proposed, but I will get to that in a moment. We support the intent of this legislation, as we supported the last bill, the Land Transport (Enforcement Powers) Amendment Bill.
It is incumbent on Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition to point out issues, and we have some difficulty in the gap between the rhetoric and the actual implementation. Communities were told that this Government would get tough on this issue, and I say: “Good on the Government.”, because it should get tough on it. I had a crack at it as a backbencher. I did not have the Minister’s vast resources of departments when I drafted my bill on this issue as a backbencher. The advice I received was that we had covered the bases. There were some things that we had not thought of, obviously, because I do not have a monopoly on all knowledge on this issue, unlike the Minister. I have some experience, though. She has no generosity in acknowledging the fact that we had a crack at this; we did not have the official advice that she had. I applaud her for closing those third-party loopholes, for the hardship provisions, and for a number of other clauses that are contained in this bill.
But here is the difficulty. The community was told that this Minister would get tough. The communities up and down the country were told that every car would be closer to the crusher. As I say, these words will be etched on their memories. It was a very good line, I thought, and although the “Crusher Collins” line was a good nickname for about 3 days, I do not think it will be a good nickname as we go forward and see the results of this legislation. Everybody was under the impression that these cars would be rolled up and crushed, but then we got down to tintacks. These are not my words; these are the Minister’s own words on radio and in the newspaper. She was asked how many cars she thought would be crushed. She said that she expected 10 a year. In Christchurch, we know that 1,000 cars maraud around the show each Friday night. How will 10 cars a year incentivise a change in behaviour?
It is not even a block’s worth, Ms Dyson says. After months of tough rhetoric, today the Minister started talking about fairness, balance, and not wanting to be Draconian.
I will not comment on that, but here is the serious point. The impression the communities had was that the crusher would roll. The crusher has not rolled, or, rather, it will roll to only 10 cars a year. Then the Minister said on radio that she was absolutely confident that the courts would enforce this provision. She is a lawyer, and once was president of the Auckland District Law Society. She knows that no one can guarantee what judges will do. Their job is to interpret the law.
The other difficulty we have is with the implementation of the warning provisions. The Minister said she would get tough. I ask those who may be listening and those in the communities whether it is tough that when a boy racer changes the ownership of his or her car and allow a boy-racing mate to use the car to run amok and terrorise a community, the owner, who is a boy racer, gets a letter saying that somebody has been very naughty in that car. How tough is that? I wonder what the communities will say.
On a second offence by the boy racer’s mate, the owner will get a second letter—it may be signed by Judith Collins herself—with some naughty words on it to frighten the boy racer, saying that somebody has been very, very naughty in that car. Then there is a third offence within 4 years, when the boy racer’s mate takes the car to run amok in another community, and a third group of residents experience the nuisance or, in some cases, are terrorised by this sort of behaviour. We know there is violence attached to what happens here. We have seen that.
On the third offence it will be discretionary for the judge whether to take any action. There is no mandatory requirement, as there would be if the Minister preserved my existing legislative provisions. Under my provisions, on a first offence, if the owner of the car is also the offender, the judge may take the car forever, and, on a second offence, the judge must take it for ever. If the boy racer is the third party and has let his or her boy-racing mate run amok three times, under this legislation it is then up to the judge. The judge might do nothing or might order that the car be crushed. That is optional. Maybe the judge will order that the car be taken permanently. That is optional.
We simply put an amendment forward that said we should give the third party a letter that says that if his or her mate takes the car and runs amok again, a court will take the car forever—permanently. Where it happens to be mum’s car or dad’s car—rare though that is, as we know from the police—all the mums and dads that I have talked to have said they will deal with Johnny and give him the message real quick that he ain’t taking their car. The keys will go in the pocket, not on the hook on the wall in the kitchen. If the Government wants to get tough and break the back of this problem, we offer a suggestion. We believe this bill is weak and that this Minister has been weak. Her only counterargument is that we must have balance and we must have fairness. I could not believe what I was hearing, to be honest.
The other point we made on the legislation was that we adhered to the Police Association’s view around crushing. In its submission the Police Association said: “the car-crushing provisions are unfortunately ‘a sideshow that looks good … but [which] in reality will have very little effect’.” I agree with the Police Association, because the Minister told us that cars would be heading to the crusher. I challenge any member of this House to say that the communities did not have the impression from this Minister that the cars would be lined up in droves. I challenge any member to say that the communities did not have that perception, because they did. But the Minister’s own words condemn her proposition. She has said it will be 10 cars a year. In Christchurch, as Mr David Carter knows, and in Hamilton—the Hamilton member may be here somewhere; Hamilton has been through hell—hundreds of these vehicles are leering it up, causing mayhem. There are hundreds damn near every night of the week. The Minister said 10 cars a year will be crushed. That proves that the Police Association’s point is right, and that it will be “a sideshow that looks good”. Members can imagine what Judith Collins will say when the first car gets crushed and then when nine others are. I have met boy racers and I have been threatened by them. I have talked with them, and they will not give a rat’s about 10 cars a year being crushed.
The other reason we oppose crushing is a practical reason. Most of the boy racers, as the Minister rightly points out, have huge numbers of fines and court costs to pay, and often the only asset they have is a souped-up wagon. They do not drive heaps; they are very proud of the wagons that they drive. Some have told me they have put $30,000 or $40,000 into them. That is great stuff if they are acting legally. Given that that is the only asset that many of them have, and given that they owe fines and court costs, the question is how we should deal with those fines and court costs. My belief is that we should maximise the asset value and dollar value of that asset, the car, in such a way as to utilise those funds so that the offender—I will not put words in Mr Garrett’s mouth, but I suspect even he may agree with this—pays his or her own court costs and fines. If that does not happen, and the wagon is crushed and is useless, who ends up paying those court costs and fines? The taxpayer does. I do not think the innocent should have to cough up for the offender. If the car is cut up for parts, what will they do then? We could maximise its value through selling parts. The issue of recycling has been trumpeted in this Chamber, where a boy racer goes and buys the wagon back, but even in the police’s own submission, not one shred of analysis or evidence has been given to us that shows that boy racers are running around the back of Turners Auctions and buying the wagons back. Not one piece of evidence has been given to show that. The Minister’s only suggestion was to go and talk to the police and they would tell us. Well, I have. Some time ago I even visited a police yard and had a look at all of the wagons that were impounded—some were very impressive, I have to say. But no evidence at all has been put before this House by that Minister to show that this sort of mass recycling is going on.
This issue is serious, and I will tell members why it is serious. People are dying. The police told us there were 56 fatalities last year, and a couple of hundred injuries. People are dying and people are losing friends. It is more serious than just the leer-up and the doughnut on the footy field lawn. It is mainly young people, and they are dying on the roads. I am a rugby fanatic. If guys were playing rugby on State Highway 1, I would say to those fullas that I love the game, but I would ask why they do not go and do it safely on the footy field at the club. I think this House has made that plea for many years: people should go and join a car club, act legally, and then come to MPs and councils and say that they have doubled the membership of the car club and they want us to provide them with more facilities. I would buy into that if they act legally first.
I am pleased to take a call on the third reading of the Vehicle Confiscation and Seizure Bill. I think, despite some of the things that have been said, it has pretty widespread support across the House. The reason for that is that all of us, as members of Parliament and members of the public, have had experience of the types of illegal street racing behaviour that this bill and its companion bill, the Land Transport (Enforcement Powers) Amendment Bill, are designed to control. It has affected us all. We have certainly had constituents come and tell us about their experiences. I thank the submitters to the select committee once again for their candour, their bravery, and also for the clear way in which they articulated the manner in which it is affecting their communities. I think Mr Garrett talked earlier about freedom—the freedom to go and pursue those interests, but without externalising the impacts of those activities on people who do not want to be involved in them. As the Minister mentioned, this bill and its companion bill, the Land Transport (Enforcement Powers) Amendment Bill, which we passed last night, take us one step closer to a situation where members of the public, I think, can go about their lives without the fear and intimidation that at present exists because of this behaviour. It is a really significant step on that journey, and there is no doubt that it will improve the situation, but I do not think the Ministers, the officials, members of Parliament, or the public are under any illusions that it is a magic bullet, that we have come to the end of that journey, and that the problem is solved, because clearly it is not.
I will just touch on two policy areas that I think the Ministers are working on and that are a work in progress. The first is the matter of noise. Noise was discussed quite a bit in the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee. It was certainly discussed in the Committee stage of the previous bill. I think noise is really the symptom of the underlying behaviour. It is not necessarily the cause of all the problems, but it is a significant symptom. I am confident that some of the measures that are put in place with these two bills will reduce the impact of noise on the public, but I do not think that the journey is over yet.
The other area I will touch on is failure to stop. We have had serious representations by the police and the Police Association about failure to stop being the single most dangerous aspect of illegal street racing behaviour. That is where people are dying. I am pleased to see that an impoundment clause was added to the previous legislation. I put officials through quite stern examination of another suggestion around a mandatory 28-day licence suspension, which could be added to section 128 of the Sentencing Act through this bill. It was not, but I was very satisfied with the answers about why that was not possible, and also encouraged by the fact that more policy work would be done in this area.
There are other peripheral factors, like alcohol in cars, the issue of third-party insurance, and the mass gathering and social disorder that comes with it. That is still a work in progress, but I think we have taken a significant step forward.
My last comment is addressed to the car enthusiasts themselves. We heard submissions from many law-abiding, car-loving owners, who said that they were simply going about their activities, doing the things they love, in a peaceful and legal manner. They said that they spent a lot of time and money on their vehicles, and that they really enjoyed the opportunity to park up, share their stories, show off their cars in a legal way, and do other activities. We heard from one submitter in Hamilton, who suggested to us that 95 percent of car lovers are engaging in behaviour that is legal and OK, and it is only a very small minority who drive illegally. Here is my message to the 95 percent: weed out the others. Get rid of them, because they are bringing down the reputation of the 95 percent, and they are creating a huge amount of public anxiety and fear. If the proportions are that, then those law-abiding car lovers also have a responsibility to take control of their activities. I leave that as the challenge. I support this bill and I look forward to its passage.
I will start by saying that I thought that was a very thoughtful contribution by Michael Woodhouse. I actually agree with most of it, if not all of it. He much more realistically captured the status of the three bills that were divided from the Vehicle Confiscation and Seizure Bill, whose third reading we are debating, unlike the Minister, Judith Collins, who was flagging them as a solution to the boy-racer problem. Michael Woodhouse has correctly indicated that elements of these bills will be useful steps along the way, but there are many areas that still require further work. I intend to cover those issues as well.
I have stood in the House on several occasions to speak on the Vehicle Confiscation and Seizure Bill and its companion bill, the Land Transport (Enforcement Powers) Amendment Bill, to acknowledge those people who brought their stories to the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee. I want to do that again. We were all profoundly affected by the presentations of those people who have to deal with this problem in their day-to-day lives, particularly in the submissions made in Christchurch. I cannot express more strongly that I sympathise with those people for the impact that it has on their lives.
I also think that there were very thoughtful submissions from a number of agencies trying to grapple with the problem. There are genuine car enthusiasts. There are a whole lot of associated issues around things like freedom of association. There are issues about balancing of rights. But the bottom line, as everybody on that select committee recognised, is that there is a need to address this issue and tackle the problem of those who are making other people’s lives a misery. Whether it is affecting them in terms of sleep deprivation, their feeling of security and ability to go about their business, damage to their property by people breaking glass, or their business, they are all significant impacts. There were 58 submissions on the Vehicle Confiscation and Seizure Bill, and I particularly thank those people and the officials who worked with us in providing advice throughout the process.
I will focus on a couple of scene-setting matters. I talked quite a bit about noise in the debate on those two bills, and I will briefly mention that again, but one of the other areas I flagged was the issue of road safety. I note that, in the 4 years between 2004 and 2008, illegal street racing was implicated in 49 fatal crashes, 160 serious injury crashes, and 376 minor injury crashes, and in 2008 there were 2,431 convictions for illegal street racing. It is a significant problem, and at its most extreme it is causing loss of life. It is not a trivial matter at all.
The Vehicle Confiscation and Seizure Bill particularly looked at strengthening powers of the court to order confiscation, but it went on to include the destruction of motor vehicles, and that is where we have got into all the hype about “Crusher Collins” and all of that sort of carry-on. That is where I think we have gone off-track on this legislation. The bits around strengthening confiscation and dealing with loopholes, like the third party provisions, are really useful additions to the statute that we already have on the statute book. They will assist the police and others in making sure that we deal with this issue. The issue of destruction of motor vehicles is actually just a red herring. I think it has been beefed up by members opposite as really getting tough. Labour has supported these bills. We have tried to amend the legislation to toughen up the confiscation provisions, because getting those cars off the road—the confiscation of those cars—is as serious as destruction. Our view is that the courts are not very likely to go down the destruction track. A lot of the submitters thought that the destruction provision was just ridiculous, and that it was not where we should be focusing our attention. The bill also strengthens provisions around the enforcement of the collection of unpaid fines and reparation. Again, I say that we strongly support that. There are too many people who have been able to use loopholes to get out of taking responsibility for their actions in that regard.
We have said all the way through that we will support measures to crack down on illegal street racing. It is an issue that Labour has consistently engaged with and has tried to deal with over a number of years. In the course of this debate, we put up a proposition to toughen the Vehicle Confiscation and Seizure Bill. Unfortunately, despite our requests of the Government to support that amendment, it was not taken up. Essentially Supplementary Order Paper 73 aimed to reinstate the original intention of the Land Transport (Unauthorised Street and Drag Racing) Amendment Act 2003, whereby after two street racing offences within 4 years, an offender’s vehicle must be permanently confiscated. It sought to apply that same provision to the substitute for the offender. Mr Cosgrove talked about it in detail, so I will not go into that Supplementary Order Paper, but it maintained the safeguards and appeal rights that were in the bill. Basically, we wanted to ensure that the bill was toughened up with regard to confiscation on a second offence. We have said all the way through that we do not agree with crushing cars. It is a waste and we think it a distraction from the real issues. We put up that amendment, but unfortunately it was not accepted by the Government.
The other thing I would like talk about in some detail is the provision around a substitute for the offender. As I mentioned, we are strongly supportive of this provision. It closes a loophole where those who are engaged in illegal street racing have effectively transferred ownership backwards and forwards between themselves, their parents, their friends, or whatever. This seeks to address what has been identified as a real problem, and we support it. A provision to be added to the Sentencing Act by clause 5 of the Vehicle Confiscation and Seizure Bill basically means that a person can become a substitute for the offender. There are protections so that, for example, the court cannot order confiscation of a vehicle owned by a substitute if the substitute could not have reasonably known that the offender would commit an offence, or if the substitute took all reasonable steps to prevent the commissioning of an offence. That is important. It is important that we do not get so Draconian that we take away people’s rights. There was consideration around the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act in that regard. It was vetted by Crown Law, and it found that this provision was consistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. That was particularly so because there are no criminal penalties associated with this provision. I think that the substitute for the offender provision was an important change, and it is one we are strongly supportive of.
The other area I want to go back to is where I started around the real issues here. Throughout this debate, I have consistently said that noise is a real issue. I concur with what Michael Woodhouse said in relation to the issue of noise. The other issues are road safety and antisocial behaviour. When we boiled down the implications of what people were saying to us, those were the things that were impacting on their lives. Those are the things that we need to be addressing if we are serious about dealing with the issue of illegal street racing.
In our report on this bill, we Labour members raised our concern that cuts to police resources will impact negatively on the ability to effectively deal with the problems arising from illegal street racing. The police’s role in this is absolutely crucial, not only in an enforcement sense but also in a community safety and community policing sense. Mr Woodhouse talked about some of the people who might, for the purposes of this debate, be characterised as the good boy-racers, or the people who like to use their vehicles in certain ways and show off in their vehicles and everything else in a way that is not disadvantaging anybody else. Community policing is really important in having those relationships and in trying to foster a voice for those people. We talked to some of those people in Christchurch to make sure that police responses take account of information that those people will be hearing about some of the people we might characterise as the bad boy racers. Again, I say that police resourcing is important in terms of both enforcement and the community policing side of things. We are worried about the current budget cuts, including the loss of police vehicles, and the implications that that will have on effective policing.
Firstly, I congratulate the previous speaker, Carol Beaumont, who brought back the focus on to the other measures that the Vehicle Confiscation and Seizure Bill provides for, which are contained in clause 15, “Sale of confiscated motor vehicles”, and the disposition of the proceeds thereof. We heard an awful lot of excited rhetoric from Mr Cosgrove about the crushing provisions, which I will come to myself, as well. I am very pleased that Ms Beaumont pointed out that the remedy that is most likely to be applied is confiscation and sale of the vehicle, either in whole or in part, and of course that is sensible. The sale process has appeal, for the reasons that many members have spoken of, but there are also problems if the vehicle is sold as a whole because of the auction process that members on this side of the House are well familiar with, if Mr Burns is not.
I turn to the points made about crushing. The first point that needs to be emphasised is that this is very much a last resort; it is not the first. It involves the concept of deterrence, and it is a very ancient concept. I think the French put it most elegantly—pour encourager les autres—but it goes back to Greek and Roman times. It basically says that someone shoots a deserter to discourage others, to pick one unpleasant example. Or, in this context, to crush one car to discourage the 500 or 1,000 others who are subject to it.
Unlike Mr Cosgrove, I do not believe that all criminals are stupid; I believe that most criminals are rational. We have all used the term boy racers, even though it is somewhat benign. Boy racing is a rational offence. A person intending to go down Moorhouse Avenue or do endless circuits through Hagley Park needs to decide he or she is going to do it, then go and fill up the car, call or text the other clowns, go to the appointed spot, and carry out the activity. That is a series of rational steps made by that person or persons. It is not a murder committed in the heat of the moment, and it is not a drugged assault or another kind of assault committed in the heat of the moment. It is a rational, considered offence.
Evidence shows that deterrence very much works in that area. It is one of the reasons why violent crime has decreased 60 percent in California since 1994, when the “three strikes” law was introduced. Contrary to popular belief, it is not just because of incapacitation. A study cited in the Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill showed a 22 percent reduction in crime, due to deterrence.
I ask members to imagine, in the context of this bill, the impact of that first crushing. Let us say that the Minister or Mr Cosgrove, for that matter, are right and there are only 10 crushings a year. Mr Cosgrove has said, and he appears to have plenty of knowledge of this field, that a lot of those vehicles are worth 30 grand. Well, 30 grand is a lot of money to me; I think the best of my two cars is worth about $5,500. Imagine the impact that crushing a $30,000 car will have, if that is someone’s only asset. Hopefully some sensible judge, and there are a good many of them, will pick as a first example one of the cars that Mr Cosgrove referred to—a nice, shiny thing. I do not know what the hoons think that would be—a Subaru Impreza or something, hotted up, lowered, and given a nice paint job. Imagine the impact of crushing that car on the rest of the boy racers. It might not work; it might not deter everybody. It might take two crushings, or five, but I warrant that this will have an effect when crushing is reached eventually; it will have an effect.
I could cite a very unpleasant case in South Auckland concerning deterrence, but I will not, for reasons of taste. The fact is that when it comes to rational offending, which requires intention, deliberation, and steps, deterrence has been shown to work and I believe it will work in this case. We are happy to support this bill, but, as I said earlier and I will repeat, if it does not work we will be happy to support any amendment that closes any loophole that someone in my profession manages to find in the coming months or years. Thank you.
The Green Party is opposed to the vehicle confiscation and seizure legislation. We think this legislation, along with some other bills the Government is introducing, goes in the wrong direction of thinking that the answer to criminal behaviour is just to extend the penalties and get tougher and tougher and tougher. That response is only filling up our jails—overfilling our jails—and now we are talking about double-bunking and all the rest of it. There was a reaction to that approach by the Chief Justice some weeks back. More recently, I saw a very insightful column by Colin James, a well-respected commentator, who was worried that we are going in the direction of more penalties, longer sentences, etc.
There is an interjection that I am a criminal sympathiser. The legal fraternity, particularly a lecturer at Victoria University of Wellington, has made the point that the prison rate in countries like Sweden that have taken a different course is much lower than the prison rate in New Zealand. So we are increasing the rate of crime. That is, the people who are on this law and order offensive are the pro-criminal ones because they are creating more criminals. They are reducing the possibility of rehabilitation; prisons are, by and large, schools for crime. If members are anti-crime, they should be against this legislation.
The report on the bill from the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee says that it offended against the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act in terms of the provisions for confiscation, destruction, and seizure. This idea of a penalty of crushing an object, in this case a car, is not one that the Greens support. We do not support physically destroying material, such as the cars, which could have another use. There may be cases for forced confiscation and the like, but surely the vehicle itself should remain to be of use to somebody, if not the offender. So this whole idea of crushing cars seems to be offensive to common sense. We are very much against that. It is surely offensive to any ecological approach of recycling material and continuing objects in circulation and in use.
We also disagree with the Labour minority report, which said that the judges should not have discretion on whether there should be confiscation or destruction—crushing of a vehicle. We think the judges should have discretion, because it is very complicated. In fact, the whole issue is intensely complicated, and the more the Government goes down this law and order track, the more complicated it becomes in terms of who has ownership rights and might reuse the vehicle, who it might be onsold to, and all the rest of it. It is getting into a total tangle. The more we go in the direction of extreme measures like destruction, the more tangle we get into, and probably the more appeals, court cases, and cost to the Government and the taxpayer. So, in general, we are against this bill and will be voting accordingly. Thank you.
Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker, kia ora tātou i tēnei ata. Before I start my speech, I say that I have sympathy for Mr Locke’s comments in respect of wasting of cars, especially if someone is struggling to get one. I understand where he is coming from. But if the general intent is to make a point around this whole issue of, not boy racers per se, but certainly the issues of safety, then the Māori Party is compelled to go with this legislation. Albeit, hearing that, I would not mind some of those cars—drop off a muffler here or there, or a few of the add-ons, just to make the look more impressive, as some might say. But be that as it may, that is another issue.
No, I would have a go. Today, as we have heard, the legislation has been divided, and there are three bills before the House right now in the third reading stage. It is a remarkable coincidence that these three bills feature the impact of boy-racer traffic offending and that they are, in fact, in front of the House at this time when accident compensation is very much on the national agenda. As stated in earlier stages, the Māori Party is well aware that Māori are overrepresented in nearly every injury statistic, but particularly from car accidents. In a study published by the Ngāi Tahu Māori health research centre and the injury prevention research unit at the University of Otago, a key finding was that youth was an important risk factor, with two-thirds of Maori casualties aged between 15 and 34 years of age.
The study “Motor vehicle traffic crashes involving Māori”, published in the NewZealand Medical Journal, points out that the majority of crashes involving Māori have occurred on two-way sealed roads that were either in a city or on the outskirts of a city. So, enter the boy-racer phenomenon.
These bills accompany the Land Transport (Enforcement Powers) Amendment Bill and make three significant amendments to the current law. The bills amend the Sentencing Act, the Summary Proceedings Act, and the Privacy Act in order to reduce boy-racer traffic offending. The legislation in particular strengthens the powers of the courts to order the confiscation of cars and to give them the powers to order the destruction of cars used by persistent street racing offenders. It strengthens provisions to seize cars in order to enforce protection of unpaid fines and reparation. I can understand some of the reactions that have been highlighted about this course of legislation, which are that it appears overly heavy. But a number of circumstances convince me of the importance of this legislation.
The first is that the court must not order the destruction of a vehicle if it will result in extreme hardship to the offender, or undue hardship to any other person, and that might be the little out that Mr Locke was looking for. But, more important, I bring us back to the importance of road-traffic crashes as a health issue for young Māori males. Professor Mason Durie has commented that the effect of injury to rangatahi—young people—is accentuated by the loss of the benefits that can flow from competent, healthy, skilled whānau members. In real terms, this is the loss of the whānau asset—the promise of a future generation, if one wants to put it that way.
More than any other issue, examining the phenomenon of boy racing reminds us of the vital need to develop strategies for prevention of road traffic injuries amongst Māori. We must allocate priority to rehabilitation and support services for Māori injured as a result of motor vehicle crashes. This is where the craze for fast racing and souped-up cars takes on a far more serious dimension. We are not talking about a bit of harmless fun, and the boys out having a bit of a good time. We are talking about events that in the end result in death or long-term disability resulting from injuries. We are talking about the traumatic loss suffered by whānau when individuals suffer the consequences of road crashes. We are thinking about the real cost of care imposed on carers and whānau.
The research I cited earlier showed that head injuries were incurred by around 35 percent of Māori casualties admitted to hospital, followed by fractures of the lower limb, the neck, and the trunk. I was interested in the views of the YouthLaw Tino Rangatiratanga Taitamariki group, which was that the bills together represent a regime of significantly more deterrence penalties and enforcement provisions, particularly in respect of illegal street racing, and that the boy-racer subculture is the primary target of enforcement.
Another interesting submission was the one from the Candor Trust, Campaign Against Drugs on Roads. Its position was that New Zealand road toll statistics tell us that noise is the key boy-racer issue and not road traffic, for the most part. Noise is an issue but that issue does not kill people, and there is the difference.
I come back to the problem we face as a Parliament. There are public safety issues, including the death and injury of young people, that definitely need to be addressed. We in the Māori Party are particularly concerned about the significant burden to the health of young Māori created by death and injury due to motor vehicle crashes. We admit that our support for this bill is in the total and absolute hope that anything we can do to prevent illegal street racing will help to maintain public health and safety.
We also acknowledge there are many issues left unanswered. There are many concerns and questions left unresolved. For instance, we know that alongside being young and male, a high proportion, some 70 percent, of Māori casualties were from areas with high levels of deprivation—that is, decile 7 to 10. Such a finding highlights the need to further explore the association between the social and economic determinants of health in relation to injury and motor vehicle traffic crashes. Is it to do with the condition of the car, the quality of life, the health, or the educational circumstances of the driver? These are some of the key questions we need to consider.
The police reports describe a particular profile of a boy-racer. Typically, boy racers are male, aged between 16 and 28 years of age, and employed in the middle class. They lack criminal histories but have usually racked up some fines for driving offences. If we have such specific demographic details, one wonders whether we should in fact be targeting the driver and not the car—again, to take up Mr Locke’s point.
Then there is the fact of the activities associated with the boy-racer subculture. Again, boy racers are typically associated with, firstly, alcohol consumption; secondly, with stunt driving, including burnouts, doughnuts, and drag racing; thirdly, they are usually associated with wilful and unconscious damage of public and private property; and, fourthly, they are associated with networks brought together by word of mouth, cellphones, and car horns, as alluded to by my ACT colleague. Is the combined impact of each of those deeds in fact the worse evil? That, again, is a question we should pose. Rather, should we be putting our energy into a comprehensive campaign on road safety, and targeting all of our energy into addressing the drivers who are happy not to wear seatbelts but to speed, to drink and drive, and to take risks? Or maybe we are targeting things too late. Perhaps we should instead be promoting best practice from the moment our babies are in car seats. These are the questions that I hope, having been through the debate, we might address in the future, should, as Mr Cosgrove alluded to, this legislation come back to bite us in the bum later on.
My colleague Rahui Katene, MP for Te Tai Tonga, has talked to me about the submission from Te Puāwaitanga ki Ōtautahi Trust. In its petition to the Safer Journeys 2020 strategy it focused its efforts on the current use of child restraints. According to the trust’s sources, approximately 16 tamariki per year die as a result of motor vehicle accidents, and another 275 are hospitalised. Even after extensive campaigns to address those issues, one or two cars out of 10 still have tamariki travelling unsecured, and only one in five have car seats that are fitted properly.
I have taken us on a rather rapid gallop across the whole range of the issues, strategies, and interventions in the broader area of road safety, because I believe we need to be innovative as we look into this issue, and across all areas of public health and safety concerns, if we really want to look at better outcomes in terms of public safety. Ultimately, I guess the real success of the legislation we are voting for today will be in the immediate outcomes we can measure in mortality statistics and hospitalisation statistics, and in rehabilitation data. But it is in the interests of health and well-being, and the well-being of our whānau in particular, that we of the Māori Party will be voting in support of this bill in its third reading today.
I am pleased to speak to the third readings of the vehicle confiscation and seizure legislation, the Government’s response to illegal street racing. I congratulate Judith Collins on her crusade against this activity; the chair of the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee, David Bennett; the officials, who did a lot of work and assisted the committee; and, of course, the submitters.
This legislation gives greater powers to the police, courts, and local authorities to tackle illegal street racers. Along with its companion bill—the Land Transport (Enforcement Powers) Bill, which has now passed its third reading—it will send a strong message that illegal street racing is unacceptable, and that mob-like, hoon-like behaviour will not be tolerated under any circumstances. The public is sick of being terrorised, pedestrians and residents are sick of being menaced by this menacing-type behaviour, and it will not be tolerated.
We heard in the select committee that businesses in Christchurch were being affected. Their clients had disturbed sleep, residents had disturbed sleep, and this year Southern Cross Hospital had to move patients from the front of the building to the back of the building. There is the problem of petrol and diesel being poured on the roads. There is the chewing up of grass verges, scattering of rubbish, broken glass, and fences being destroyed—basically property damage. Those idiots have done enough. They are a danger to themselves and to the public. There have been senseless deaths as a result of illegal street racers. By and large it affects innocent bystanders and young people. There is a tragic, unnecessary loss of human life.
The public are living in fear of reprisals. We heard yesterday of one submitter in Christchurch whose local MP had to submit on the submitter’s behalf because that submitter was so concerned about reprisals. There is concern of vigilante action by the public. Together, the Vehicle Confiscation and Seizure Bill and the Land Transport (Enforcement Powers) Bill will send a powerful message that the public do not have to live in fear or take matters into their own hands.
This legislation will allow local authorities to create by-laws and prevent predatory cruising behaviour. In Part 1 there is a new power for the court to order the confiscation and destruction of an offender’s car if that offender is convicted of a third illegal street racing offence within 4 years. That power extends to vehicles owned by a third party; for instance, if a car is owned by a parent, relative, or friend, such an owner will be given a written warning that his or her vehicle has been used illegally. We heard about finance companies that previously would not even have known that that activity was happening. I am sure that as a result of a warning letter, companies will change their contracts and will take this very seriously. I commend this bill to the House.
It is good to be able to speak as we enter the final stages—the home straight, if you like—of this legislation. It deserves the House’s attention. It is interesting to note that we did not have, from members opposite, any Christchurch MPs take part in debate on the Vehicle Confiscation and Seizure Bill or its companion measure, the Land Transport (Enforcement Powers) Amendment Bill, as we went through the Committee of the whole House. I think it is important that we have that sort of representation, because Christchurch, and certainly my electorate of Christchurch Central, has perhaps been the electorate most plagued, most focused on, and most covered by the media in respect of the boy-racer issue. That is why it is important that I affirm clearly that Labour is strongly in support of this legislation; I think we are hearing that stated time and time again. We have some concerns and questions about the way the legislation deals with the issue of confiscation and crushing, and that is why we proposed an amendment in an attempt to make it stronger.
When I think of the reason we support this legislation, I guess it brings me back to people like the moteliers on Bealey Avenue in my electorate. I visited them late last year and saw the damage that was caused by the boy-racer fraternity: letterboxes vandalised, neon signs vandalised, excreta left in doorways, broken glass littering the pavements, and that is before—
No, it was the motels in Bealey Avenue. I looked at the damage that is inflicted every weekend, and that is why this legislation is important. That is why Labour is supporting it. Those moteliers deserve to know that Parliament, and we as MPs, can respond. That is why it is important to say that this legislation is another step in the journey. It will not be some kind of silver cube. It will not provide an ultimate answer, in my belief, because we will need the ongoing support of the police, for instance. We will also need to look at the Law Commission’s report and the proposals emerging for changes in the alcohol laws, because alcohol is very significant contributory factor to the problems that we face with boy racers. Not only are they a plague in their cars but also they are a plague where their cars park, with the alcohol that is consumed, the litter that is left, and the glass that is left littering pavements. Many people are affected by that litter. Cyclists, for instance, are plagued by punctures across Christchurch because of the detritus that is left behind by the boy-racer fraternity.
I make it very clear to the House in these third readings that Labour is in strong support of this legislation. We would have liked to see an amendment to toughen it up, but obviously it is part of an ongoing journey to deal with the problem of boy racers. We have seen time and time again the behaviour of some of those boy racers, and Christchurch tends to attract the most focus. We saw in Rotorua in just the last few weeks that a girl racer tried to bring together a show of solidarity in a supposedly peaceful fashion, but it got out of hand. That is the problem. There is not a coherent body; it is a collection of random individuals linked by cellphones and behaviour. There is no one coordinated group. We are not dealing with the Mongrel Mob, Black Power, the Devil’s Henchmen, or whatever; we are dealing with a random group of individuals. Yet the damage they wreak can be quite profound. When we look at the attack on the security woman in her car on the perimeter of the Christchurch International Airport in late January, or the cowardly and despicable attack on a police officer trying to do his duty in the midst of a mob of boy racers running riot, we see that this legislation is important.
Of course, it builds upon the legislation that the last Government passed. Harry Duynhoven was the architect of changes that came through in late 2007, and they, in turn, had built upon the changes brought by the legislation introduced by my friend and colleague Clayton Cosgrove. So the legislation was introduced in two forms in late 2007. I have to say that I saw some gaps in what was introduced in 2007. That got the support of Christchurch colleagues, and amendments were introduced in early 2008 with new regulations that gave police more powers to take cars off the road, to deal with noisy exhausts, and to modify noisy cars back to a maximum of 90 decibels. So members should not kid themselves about these issues but be very, very clear that the legislation is part of a continuum, and more changes may be needed.
I state very clearly that it is one thing for us to pass a bill, but we must ensure that the police have the resources to deal with the ongoing issues. I have some nervousness when I see $21 million being squeezed from the police budget, when I see community officers being pressed back into service and not doing the community rounds that they are supposed to do, and when the police car fleet is reduced. Police resourcing is thin at the best of times, and the police need every effort to be made and support to be given. When we consider that in the last calendar year 1,500 offence notices were issued by police in Canterbury against boy racers—about 10 times the number issued in Auckland—it gives us an indication of the scale of the issue police are facing in my dear city of Christchurch.
We are really seeing the tightening of the tourniquet with this legislation, but I have to pose the question of how much we as parliamentarians can actually achieve in this respect. Some of these measures simply say very explicitly to judges that they must get a little tougher. Of course, they have had the capacity to seize and confiscate cars on the first offence, but the indications are that even though there have been tens of thousands of occasions when that might have happened, only about 2 percent of the opportunities have been taken up by the courts. So I hope that, in a sense, the judiciary is able to take a little more notice of what Parliament is trying to express on behalf of a frustrated, aggrieved, and sometimes frightened constituency: that we as a nation have had a gutsful of the behaviour of boy racers. We as a Parliament, in large part—certainly, the two major parties, with others—agree that we need to continue to toughen up the legislation, but Parliament can achieve only so much on behalf of constituents. We need the police to be properly resourced, and we need the judiciary to take full note of the concerns that we as parliamentarians are expressing, not just on our own behalf but on behalf of the constituents whom we represent.
If we want to see an idea of the scale of the issue, we look at Christchurch. I know that members of the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee visited Christchurch, and I thank them for that. I know they were quite affected by some of the stories of constituents whose lives are being ruined by the behaviours that go on most weekend nights in Christchurch and in other cities. If any member wants to experience that, it can be very easily organised to go to a city like Christchurch, probably Hamilton, or maybe parts of Wellington and Auckland late on a Friday or Saturday night. They will get an idea of what we are dealing with.
Just for a moment I will talk about the building up of expectations. I think this legislation will help deal with these issues, and that is important, but we have to acknowledge that there is a high probability that we will be back in the Chamber looking at these issues in the future. That is rather disturbing. The reason I say that is that in the winter of last year I started getting feedback from citizens, community groups, and residents associations that the problem seemed to be abating in my electorate. I was pleased about that and thought that perhaps the legislative changes that had been introduced in February may be making a real difference. It turned out that when summer came the problem came back with a vengeance, and I think what caused the drop-off in boy-racer behaviour last winter was simply that petrol went to $2.20 a litre. It perhaps took more of them off the roads than the combination of legislative measures. So it was a bit of a false dawn in some respects.
Obviously, the measures in this legislation and its companion bill will have some impact. Those changes are very, very welcome, but let us not get our expectations too far up. We are missing some things in this legislation. The Supplementary Order Paper tabled by Labour could have made it tougher—that is, a “two strikes and you’re out” policy, rather than “three strikes and you may be out”. Also, in the companion bill, there is a complete absence of any measure by the Government to deal with the issue of noise, which is probably as big an issue as the behaviour of boy racers: the constant roar of cars with, basically, unfiltered exhausts. Maybe—I will be charitable—the Government is keeping that issue in reserve to come back to at some future time. We will wait to see that, but certainly there is no evidence of that at this point.
In summary, I believe that we as a Parliament have dealt with this issue. We are passing this legislation, and that is important. I believe that we may, unfortunately, have to be back here on the issue in the not too distant future.
I did not agree with what Keith Locke had to say earlier, and I make that very clear, but—
—everyone on the other side is wearing a yellow tie—what I, at least, liked about what Keith Locke said was that he had the courage of his convictions and that he said he would be voting against this bill. He may be wrong, but at least he has the courage of his convictions. I contrast that with what we read by Patrick Gower, a political reporter, in the New Zealand Herald this morning about Labour’s position on the bill: “The Labour Party, which has prevaricated and criticised the boy-racer legislation, will support both bills and the other four law and order bills as well.” How confused is that? It is interesting that when we look at that, we see that Labour gets just a paragraph in a very long story. I would say that that paragraph is in fact about 4.6 percent of the story, and that says something about the polls.
But I say seriously in relation to the legislation that we have a serious problem. No one is saying that it will fix all the problems and make everything better, but it is a good start. We have said it before, and I will say it again: it is a tool in the tool box for the police and the justice system.
But it is true. When we put this legislation with the series of bills the Government is putting forward, there is a significant law and order agenda there that is making the streets safer, slowly but surely.
I just say, as well, that this is a serious problem certainly in Christchurch, and we have heard from Brendan Burns about some of the problems there. But it is a problem even in Tauranga, although it is not at the level we have heard about in Christchurch, and seen on television. I did a survey in my electorate, and I was very interested to know what people thought about boy racers. I was very specific about the question, because I wanted to know whether people believed that it was a problem specifically in Tauranga rather than out and about. So my question was specific. Of the nearly 6,000 people—that is right: 6,000 people—who responded to the survey, 59 percent were very concerned about boy racers in their areas. So this is a problem and we are addressing it. The legislation will not solve everything, but it will send a message of deterrence to boy racers and illegal street racers that we are watching them, and that in worst-case scenarios their cars will be crushed. I commend the legislation to the House.
I am pleased to take a call in the third readings of the vehicle confiscation and seizure legislation. As Labour has repeatedly said, we are supporting this bill. We have reservations about it that I will go into a little bit more shortly, but I want to reflect on some of the considerations of the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee. Before I do that, I acknowledge the work of the select committee, and particularly the officials. Whether or not we like it, the decision-making process on the select committee was not perfect. In fact, it was far from perfect. The Vehicle Confiscation and Seizure Bill was rushed through and there was a change of report-back date at the last minute. I think that made it very difficult for the officials who were required to come back with their report far earlier than they should have been made to. It also made it difficult for the Labour members with regard to taking the issues to our caucus and considering them properly. It was not a great process. However, we have put that behind us, and here we are.
I observe that this legislation was supposed to be the king hit on boy racers, but I fear that the public have been fed a whole lot of big talk and bragging by this Government. The reality is that this legislation will not make a huge difference to the problem of illegal street racing. I am really sorry about that. I am sorry for the 58 people who made submissions to the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee. I am sorry for the 30 submitters who made the effort to come along to the select committee to be heard. I am sorry for the residents in the communities who came to the select committee and talked about the way that this problem is affecting them and said that it is having a real impact on their well-being. I am especially sorry for those communities that are expecting a miracle to occur when this legislation is passed, because they have been led to believe that this legislation will mean that peace will reign once more in their neighbourhoods. Well, it will not.
I am also very disappointed that Minister Judith Collins failed to accept the Labour Party’s offer of assistance through Clayton Cosgrove’s Supplementary Order Paper 73. We were trying to be helpful to the Government, to toughen up the legislation so that it would work and would make a difference. It is very interesting that the Police Association, for example, said that this legislation was a sideshow, a waste of time, and it ignored the real issues.
The Police Association said that. It had some other suggestions that were very good, and I will talk about that a little more. Minister Judith Collins has talked tough. It was interesting that in the Committee stage this morning she started to say that the legislation is not really about being tough and crushing vehicles, but about changing behaviour. It is not a silver bullet. It will not fix the problem
It was a few months ago, when we heard her in the media and when she got her nickname. It is not what the Government has been saying up and down the country. It is not what it has been saying over many years.
In fact, I think this has been a hard lesson not only for Minister Judith Collins but also for some other members; for example, Nicky Wagner—
—Nicky “Warg-ner”—with her petition, and the National members who campaigned in Christchurch in the 2005 and 2008 election campaigns on this issue. Those members got people to believe that there was a simple solution to this problem. They had people believe that not enough had been done and that they would fix it. It is very disappointing, as my colleague Brendon Burns observed this morning, that we have had no National MP from Christchurch participating in either the Committee stage or the third reading of this legislation.
Yes, that is right. I want to know where those members’ contributions have been in the final stages of this debate. I ask what Nicky Wagner has to say about this. I ask what she has to say about the noise, which was the real issue that she campaigned on. We have heard about that issue from many of our colleagues from our side of the Chamber. That seemed to be the No. 1 issue affecting the submitters who came along to the select committee. It has been left to Labour to run the arguments, to ask the questions, and to try to make this legislation work. As I said, it is very disappointing that our offer has not been taken up.
One of the things that is worth recording is that of the 17 submitters who commented on vehicle confiscation and destruction, seven were opposed to that aspect of the legislation. Two of those submitters are big organisations. One was the Police Association, as I have mentioned, and the other one was the New Zealand Automobile Association. It said that it did not favour crushing vehicles. It said that it was a Draconian measure motivated by revenge, although it acknowledged that the number of vehicles likely to be crushed under the legislation will be low. The Minister owned up to that this morning too, and said that that would be the case. The Automobile Association did a survey of its members in March 2009 in which 65 percent of its members supported permanent vehicle confiscation for repeat offenders, but only 11 percent supported the crushing of cars. It is quite interesting to hear that. Despite all the hoopla made by this Government about crushing cars and all the rest of it, the public have shown that they have quite a lot of common sense when it comes to this issue. They want the cars off the road. They think that permanent confiscation is enough. They think that car destruction is a waste of taxpayers’ money and that it has been talked up by a Minister who wants to look tough.
One of the other interesting things that was discussed in the select committee was the role of the police. I completely support my colleagues who said that it is the Government’s job to ensure that with regard to this legislation and its companion bill that we passed yesterday, the Land Transport (Enforcement Powers) Amendment Bill, the police must have enough resources to implement the changes. In the Committee stage I asked for some reassurance from the Minister that that would be the case, and I got no reply. The police told us that they have recently undertaken measures, led by the assistant commissioner of operations, to ensure that the operational response to illegal street racing is nationwide and consistent, that the police are fully utilising existing legislation, and that a clear measurement of illegal street racing activity is made in each district. That demonstrated to me that the police considered that the powers they already have are sufficient and that it was more of an issue of resources, as they said in their submission to us.
Some people in this debate and in the debate on the previous bill mentioned the success in Manukau of Operation Sniper as a mechanism for prosecuting boy racers and working within existing laws. Just to outline that a little, judges in Manukau are working within the provisions already available to them prior to this legislation becoming law and are handing out much harsher penalties for illegal street racing than courts elsewhere. Two 17-year-olds were recently disqualified from driving for a year and fined $1,000, as well as being ordered to pay $130 in court costs, for racing their cars in Papatoetoe. Their cars were registered to their fathers for insurance purposes, and they were impounded for 28 days and it cost each youth $400 to recover them. This came about because the case was reported by a concerned motorist, and the police are encouraging other motorists to report similar behaviour. The police say that about a third of the 60 complaints made each month to Operation Sniper provide enough identification, such as car registration, for the police to follow up and prosecute. Most cases have resulted in convictions, with the driver being disqualified for at least 6 months, fined up to $4,500, and the car being impounded. The police also reported that illegal street racing has been scaled back considerably since Operation Sniper started.
That report and what the police told us demonstrate that the laws we already have in place can work with the will of the Government and with sufficient resources for the police and without the grandstanding that we have seen around this legislation. We admit that there are a couple of loopholes. That is why we are supporting the legislation and will not stand in its way. But having said that, I repeat that we regret the fact that the Government did not accept Labour’s offer of assistance to make this legislation work as it was intended to do. What we had in place around confiscation was perfectly adequate, as is demonstrated by Operation Sniper in Manukau. A couple of loopholes just needed to be closed, and there needed to be some investigation into why the courts were not confiscating vehicles permanently in the way that they are able to do under the existing legislation.
It is my pleasure to stand and speak in support of this legislation. I congratulate the Hon Judith Collins on taking this legislation through the steps that it needs to take. Right now throughout our country there are thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of teenage boys, particularly, who have posters on their walls of hot, shiny cars with slick tyres, big exhaust pipes, and very, very powerful engines. In fact, the engines that these cars have these days are probably far more powerful than the engines that racing car drivers had in their cars 20 or 30 years ago. These inexperienced drivers are driving their vehicles much to their pleasure, but much to the danger of other people around them. I think that this legislation is legislation of great responsibility to society, to those people in different communities who are plagued by not only the tremendous volume of sound but also the danger that exists outside their front doors.
Members will be aware that vehicles these days have incredible power. It is easy for people just to turn on the gas, to take these vehicles to incredible speed very, very quickly, and to lose control. No doubt there are people in this House who have done precisely that over the years. I am sure that has never been the occurrence when you, Mr Assistant Speaker Barker, ride your motorcycle through the country, as you are a tremendously law-abiding citizen. But I am sure that other people will not be as law-abiding as you are.
It is also important to note that this legislation takes account of some serious offences and tragic fatalities that have taken place over these last years. I am sure that the parents and family members of those who have died because of illegal street racing will, this day, have an increased sense of closure in their grief. They will see that this legislation will help to prevent other young people from dying and other families from suffering the tragedy they have suffered. Today we remember Scott Finn, who died in Mount Maunganui; we remember Laureen Helen Reilly, an elderly woman; we remember Ratu Victor Vikash, a 23-year-old; we remember two girls, both aged 16, who passed away in Christchurch at that party; and we remember pedestrian Amy Edward-Minton, killed on a crossing in Cambridge Terrace, Wellington. We remember these people. We remember Billy Wall and other people who have lost their lives because of illegal street racing. We know that their family members today will have a sense of closure because of this legislation we are passing.
I think it is sensible, good legislation and I commend it to the House. I congratulate our Minister, the Hon Judith Collins, on bringing the legislation to the House. Thank you.
A party vote was called for on the question,
- New Zealand National 58
- New Zealand Labour 43
- ACT New Zealand 5
- Māori Party 5
- Progressive 1
- United Future 1
Bills read a third time.