Home' The Wellingtonian : September 29th 2011 Contents 11
THE WELLINGTONIAN, SEPTEMBER 29, 2011
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The pitfalls of rushed legislation
In early September, the
Supreme Court ruled that
when the police placed hidden
video cameras on private property
in 2007 to collect evidence against
the Urewera defendants, the
police were acting illegally -- and
thus, the charges against 13 of the
17 Urewera defendants should be
However, the Government has
chosen to respond to the Supreme
Court ruling by seeking to pass
fresh legislation that will legalise
police use of hidden video surveil-
lance in all cases -- now,
retrospectively, and in future --
except for the Urewera cases.
The new legislation would be a
stop-gap measure until next year,
when Parliament passes into law
the major Search and Surveil-
lance Bill currently before the
This headlong rush to legitimise
police actions has raised hackles
among some Opposition politi-
cians -- Labour has been demand-
ing that any new law should
undergo select committee scru-
tiny, while the Greens oppose it
altogether -- and legal academics
To Prime Minister John Key,
the move was necessary given his
estimate of 40 pending cases and
50 ongoing police operations that
could be affected by the Supreme
Court ruling -- such that, Key
argued, people who pose a
serious risk to the community
could walk free.
Key s claims have proved to be
rather an exaggeration.
Shorn of their covertly filmed
evidence, the police cases could
still rely on the traditional, legal
ways of gathering evidence in use
before the covert technology was
Moreover, even if the Govern-
ment did nothing at all, the courts
would still retain their discretion
to weigh whether the illegality
of the surveillance was
sufficiently balanced by the
seriousness of the charge and the
weight of related evidence.
After all, that is precisely what
the Supreme Court did in its Ure-
wera ruling. Some charges were
dropped, but the charges against
four Urewera defendants have
been allowed to stand.
To some critics, the rushed
legislation will reward the police
for using illegal means to gather
Arguably, it will also give them
virtual open slather to install sur-
veillance technology on private
property in future, while remov-
ing the courts current discretion
to weigh whether the wider cir-
cumstances did in fact justify the
police using covert filming to
Henceforth, even if covert
filming is carried out in the con-
text of a warrantless search, the
new legislation appears to require
the courts to find that the police
were acting legally.
To prevent Parliament from
handing the police a blank cheque
in this fashion, Otago University
law professor Andrew Geddis has
suggested a compromise -- that
the Government import all the
safeguards set out in the proposed
Search and Surveillance Bill and
to use them as the basis for the
stop-gap legislation as well.
At least those safeguards have
already gone through the select
committee process, Geddis
reasoned, and would go some way
to balancing the operational needs
of the police against the freedoms
set out in the Human Rights Act.
It would also leave the courts
current discretions untouched.
At time of writing, it was
unclear whether the Geddis sol-
ution would be inserted into the
measures due to be passed under
In passing, the episode has
raised the issue of whether those
who enforce the law should
always be required to respect it,
and apply it to themselves.
The Wellingtonian welcomes
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Send your letters to P O Box 3740,
This ensures that you can get
safely across both lanes without
getting stranded in the middle of
the road or making a risky dash.
I respond to the letter from Peter
Kennedy (September 22).
He has taken gross offence that
a warden was working in
Newtown at 7am on a Sunday --
and that this nefarious warden
had the temerity to apparently be
checking cars warrants and
Maybe Mr Kennedy is unaware
that we have wardens working, if
necessary, 24/7. They can be busy
early on Saturdays and Sundays --
often dealing with the results of
parties or other night-time events.
For example, we call them out
when residents wake to find a car
parked across their driveway, or
when we get complaints about
cars parked in residents spaces or
In such cases, the wardens
ticket and, if necessary, have cars
towed so residents can get on with
Mr Kennedy is wrong when he
claims police are softer on expired
regos or warrants than wardens.
Of course police and wardens
will walk away if regos are a few
weeks overdue -- but both will
issue tickets if they are overdue
by more than a month.
Wellington City Council
Philip Hayward asks why public
transport doesn t suffer from
induced demand (September 22).
If you make it cheaper and
easier to travel at peak hour,
Cars are the most costly way to
move people at peak hour. A five-
metre corridor moves 2400 people
in cars (plus they need 1800 car
The same corridor with no
parking can move 12,000 people
on a dedicated busway, and up to
25,000 by rail.
With significantly less land and
cost, buses and trains move
significantly more people.
The reason our transport
system is unbalanced is because of
bad town planning regulations,
which for decades unintentionally
subsidised car trips and imposed
costs on developers that resulted
in low-density, car-oriented
The most harmful of these, still
in place in most New Zealand
plans, are minimum parking
They require most new
buildings to provide vast off-street
It has resulted in an oversupply
of underpriced, under-utilised off-
street parking -- about 25 per cent
of the land in our town centres.
But we are all paying the high
costs of free parking in higher
rents, more car trips and less
JULIE ANNE GENTER
Not just for
Gordon Campbell is mistaken
when he states in his Talking
Politics column (September 22)
that Working for Families tax
credits are available only to those
families in paid work.
This common misconception has
possibly arisen because of the
complicated structure and jargon
attached to this programme.
There are four types of Working
For Families tax credits and,
depending on circumstances,
families may be eligible for
Families that receive an
income-tested benefit are eligible
for the family tax credit.
This used to be called family
support and full entitlement
means a payment of $88 per week
for the first child under 16, with
further payments for more
children, depending on age and
Maybe Mr Campbell is referring
to other parts of this programme,
but I am concerned that because
of his blanket statement about
non-availability to beneficiary
households, some genuinely needy
families may get the wrong
message and miss out on this
It all goes towards showing the
system is over-complicated and
hard to access, especially if Work
and Income doesn t tell people
Gordon Campbell suggests Paula
Bennett, as Minister of Social
Development has heard it all
Perhaps she has -- especially if
she had read any government
reports, such as the Briefing to
the Incoming Government of
1990, when Treasury promised us
a lost generation.
National has been relentless in
the last three years undermining
some stepping stones out of
poverty, like the training
incentive allowance to those on
the DPB entering university,
severely restricting access to job
placement programmes and cuts
to early childhood education.
Funding cuts in early childhood
reduced the need for qualified
teachers. Those places not willing
to have untrained people
educating our children are pricing
early childhood opportunities out
of the reach of beneficiaries and
even low-waged parents.
The stupidity of these
approaches is sadly not new.
National did the same and
similar from 1990 to 1999 (benefit
cuts, slashing early childhood
education funding, user-pays
hospital visits and market rents).
It puts them a short head in
front of Labour, which got rid of
user-pays hospital visits and
The reduction in child poverty
under Labour was really the
result of slightly easier economic
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