Labour says an email to National Party supporters from Transport Minister Simeon Brown shows he will not consider public feedback on speed limits with an open mind.

The Government is proposing to roll back the previous government’s speed limit reductions, moves which some parents and teachers say could could risk the lives of children near schools.

Others say it risks lives generally.

Some councils have also pushed back on the plans, while others — including the Government — argue the changes would be positive for the economy.

On Sunday, in an email to a National Party supporters’ list, Brown implored recipients to submit in favour of a Government bill to “reverse Labour’s blanket speed limit reductions”.

The proposal is for the Government to create a new land transport rule aimed at ensuring when speed limits are set, “economic impacts – including travel times – and the views of road users and local communities are taken into account, alongside safety”.

Brown wrote that the Green Party had asked its supporters to submit against the plan, adding public consultation on the speed limit rule closed in less than a week.

“Kiwis rejected Labour’s blanket speed limit reductions which were forcing motorists to drive at a snail’s pace.”

National was “backing New Zealanders” by reversing those changes, he wrote, and requiring variable speed limits outside schools during pick up and drop off times “to keep young New Zealanders safe as they attend school”.

“Public consultation on our draft speed limit rule closes on 11 July. I encourage you to make your voice heard to reverse Labour’s blanket speed limit reductions across the country.”

The email then provided a link to submit feedback on the proposed rule change.

In that document, it said the role of the consultation was to give people and organisations affected by the changes “an opportunity to present their views” and to “help ensure the new rule is sound, robust and implementable”.

Labour transport spokesperson Tangi Utikere said Brown’s email suggested he was not interested in considering contrary views.

“Safety and evidence should be at the forefront of any decision to increase speed limits, not a National Party email whip around to bolster their submission numbers.

“Local communities and councils are best placed to be making these sort of decisions for their own patches.”

Utikere said the email was “very disappointing” but it did not surprise him as it was “another example of the National government seeking to disempower local councils”.

He said it was “a case of Simeon knows best”.

“We all expect the Government to have an open mind about this consultation process. What Simeon’s email confirms is that he’s already made up his mind, and he has no interest in considering what peoples’ views on speed limits are.”

As well as Utikere’s comments being put to him for response, Brown was asked if he wrote the email himself or approved it, and if he stood by it. He was also asked whether he believed the email meant he didn’t have an open mind to submissions on the rule change.

He was also asked whether he thought there was a difference between Opposition parties – who are not decision-makers – campaigning on Government policy changes and the Government doing the same.

Brown provided a statement saying the rule change gave effect to the Government’s commitment to the changes, and his argument for its importance.

The email Brown sent supporters on Sunday.

“While Labour still wants to slow Kiwis down, we want to ensure there is a balanced approach to setting speed limits, which has consistent cost-benefit analysis and ensures consistent reduced variable speed limits outside schools during pick up and drop off times.

“Unlike Labour, our Government doesn’t think it makes sense to force a shift worker travelling to work at 4am in the morning to crawl along suburban streets at 30kph.

“Clearly, Labour are still wedded to the idea of slowing Kiwis down, despite significant public opposition to their policy and former Prime Minister Chris Hipkins attempting to throw some speed limit reductions for State Highways on his policy bonfire last year.”

He said feedback on the draft speed limits rule was “an important part of the process of setting land transport rules” and he encouraged New Zealanders to share their clear views on it to “ensure the rule change takes into account a range of views”.

1News asked Brown – through his press secretary – to address the substantive question of the supporters’ email and whether he had an open mind to public submissions, with a deadline for response.

There was no further response.

‘Not got science on his side’

University of Canterbury professor and former Ministry of Transport chief science adviser Simon Kingham said while he was not an expert on usual processes for calling for submissions, he believed Brown’s email showed the Minister was concerned about public opinion not going in favour of the Government’s position.

“It’s a really bad policy.

“Everything [Brown has] said … hasn’t given any suggestion he’s listening to evidence or science. He’s not got science on his side.”

Among Kingham’s issues with the rule changes were that it was not a “balanced approach” as the Government said, but rather favoured economics and productivity over road safety, and increased emissions.

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