Monday, May 21, 2007

Another knee-jerk response

A man died in Tauranga on Saturday after being run down by a boy racer. The driver responsible has been arrested and charged with manslaughter, but that's not good enough for the local mayor. Instead, he's proposing a bylaw to ban cars from large portions of the city after dark.

There are obvious practical problems: what about the cleaners, the night-shift workers, people who work late? Or simply those for whom the shortest path from A to B passes through a banned area? But more important than that is the violence done to the right of freedom of movement affirmed in s18 of the Bill of Rights Act. We need no permits for internal travel in New Zealand. We take it for granted that on public streets we can go where we choose, when we choose, and not have to justify ourselves to anyone. And if we choose to drive the streets at night, provided we keep within the speed limit and are not obviously drunk, it is no business whatsoever of the state. But if this bylaw passes, this will no longer be true, at least in Tauranga - and another valuable part of our freedom will have been sacrificed simply so some shitty little local body politician can be seen to be "doing something" about the headline d'jour.


I guess you'll still be able to *walk* down those streets though, should you want to.

Suspect it's unworkable though, as there are as you say workers who need to get to businesses in the port area. I think there are also a few leisure firms (go-kart track? gyms?) around the industrial estate who might be pissed off if their customers can't drive there.

Posted by Rich : 5/21/2007 08:50:00 AM

I would nt describe it as a knee jerk reaction. Remember the nz bill of rights doesnt create absolute freedoms.

What it is (on what was reported) is a poorly drafted bylaw. I think they want to ban boyracers congregrating and doing races/burnouts/causing mayhem (which i assume you think is a stupid idea) but what they propose is probably a little bit over the top and untenable.

Posted by Anonymous : 5/21/2007 09:58:00 AM

And I suppose the person proposing the bylaw thinks that once boy racers arent allowed in that part of it city (which it appears they go to because its a non-residential area) are all going to sell up and start playing tiddlywinks?

Posted by Anonymous : 5/21/2007 10:06:00 AM

I don't really see what the problem is; local authorities close roads all the time. It's a stupid idea, in this case, but I don't think there are any BORA issues with it. If they'd close central-city roads during the daytime to make them more pedestrian-friendly I'd be all for it.

Posted by Anonymous : 5/21/2007 10:39:00 AM

Also, the boy racers of the Mount have rich mummies and daddies, who will probably buy them 1000hp tractor units to get around the ban.

Posted by Rich : 5/21/2007 11:32:00 AM

Also a lot of the boy racers haven't been 'boys' for a long time, although it's the teens getting all the bad press.

I find it hard to get overly excited about this issue - and from what I hear most of the police feel the same way. These teens usually are not intoxicated, they are not bashing old ladies and robbing banks. There are lots worse things they could be doing than donuts on the road, though they could find better places to congregate.

A police officer told me a while ago that they usually get an earful from the parents if they come knocking on the door about car racing for this reason.

Posted by Anonymous : 5/21/2007 01:17:00 PM

Rich: of course its unworkable - but not just for those reasons. Who will enforce the curfew and levy the fines? The police. Who it should be pointed out already have much stronger powers at their disposal.

Dangerous driving is illegal. Street racing is illegal. One can be punished with jail time, the other by the impounding of vehicles. Both of these are far more targetted responses than a blanket curfew.

Anon: What we have here is a proposal to significantly reduce fundamental freedoms in response to a tragedy. What else would you call it?

Michael: Local authorites indeed close roads all the time. But all of them? What we have here is basically a curfew - the sort of response which can only be justified by extreme risks to public safety. Boy racers may be annoying, and they may ocasisonally kill each other through their stupidity, but they don't justify this level of response.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 5/21/2007 02:08:00 PM

Idiot: I think you might be lucky enough not to have spent much time in the Mount (aka Suburbia by the Sea).

I'm assuming the area the council are talking about is the industrial area around the port. It's a self contained area with almost all industrial and service buildings - not on the way to anywhere really.

I'm the first to object to many things - but this seems to be not much different to not being able to drive around Manners & Cuba Malls in Wellington - which I assume you don't reckon infringes anyones liberties?

Posted by Rich : 5/21/2007 04:33:00 PM

Rich: I think you might be lucky enough not to have spent much time in the Mount (aka Suburbia by the Sea).

Yup - I've avoided it completely. So there's unlikely to be transit traffic, but that doesn't undermine the freedom of movement argument. Do we really want to see bylaws predicated on the basis that people must justify their travel to those in authority?

As for street-malls, I think there's a significant difference. They tend to be small areas, designed so as not to allow vehicle traffic, and for the purpose of providing a specific urban environment to their users. Conceptually, they're just not public streets; vehicles are not included in the ordinary use of such places. What Tauranga is talking about is a curfew, closing public streets to ordinary use, on a very weak purpose which could be, and arguably is, better met by narrower restrictions.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 5/21/2007 05:04:00 PM

Okay, so when are we going to see a post from you criticising laws that prevent citizens from being armed? I mean, if we change the words around a little:

A man died in Tauranga on Saturday after being shot down by a teenage gang member. The shooter responsible has been arrested and charged with murder, but that's not good enough for the local mayor. Instead, he's proposing a bylaw to ban guns from large portions of the city after dark.

Posted by Anonymous : 5/21/2007 05:57:00 PM

Usual story - existing laws cover the problem, but they haven't been enforced. So now the politicos are proposing some new law that won't be enforced. One day a politician will stand up and say "I've got it! We could just enforce the laws we already have!" and I'll probably fall down dead from shock.

Posted by Psycho Milt : 5/21/2007 06:47:00 PM

I just don't see much difference between this and "service vehicles only" or "road closed for Cuba St Carnival" or "no right turn 6am-6pm except buses" (all of which I've seen in use, recently). It's a much stupider idea, and I don't see what it's supposed to achieve, but it's not essentially different from those cases.

Posted by Anonymous : 5/21/2007 07:10:00 PM

I just don't see much difference between this and "service vehicles only" or "road closed for Cuba St Carnival" or "no right turn 6am-6pm except buses" (all of which I've seen in use, recently).

Michael - it's completely different. In those cases, the restriction is to stop legal acts (driving your vehicle in certain areas) in order to allow a carnival to happen (which is not the normal function of Cuba St) or to promote better traffic flow.

What the council are attempting to do here is bring in a by-law to stop people doing something which is already illegal. And it will fail. The existence of a law doesn't stop people doing something - if it did, drag racing on city streets would already be a non event.

Posted by Anonymous : 5/21/2007 08:36:00 PM

Look, I agree it's a stupid idea and won't work. I just also think that the local authority is perfectly able to do it if they want to.

Posted by Anonymous : 5/21/2007 11:23:00 PM

Duncan: would you really want every teenager in NZ to be armed to the teeth?

Posted by Rich : 5/22/2007 10:33:00 AM


What I want would be for every adult New Zealander to have the choice to go armed, or not.

But that's getting off the main issue, which is that like this kind of car ban, bans on adult citizens being armed are also knee-jerk reactions against the harm done by a few evil people.

Posted by Anonymous : 5/22/2007 01:43:00 PM