HRC: Accessible Public Land Transport Inquiry
Notes for the public announcement of An Inquiry into Accessible Public Land Transport by the Human Rights Commission
Rosslyn Noonan Chief Commissioner 1pm, Monday 15 December 2003 Dunedin Public Library
Kia ora tatou and welcome.
Today marks the public announcement of the Human Rights Commission's decision to hold an Inquiry into accessible public
land transport. A number of individuals, groups and organisations have contributed to this decision. I particularly
acknowledge representatives of the DPA and other disability groups and those representing the land transport sector and
the major transport companies.
I would also like to acknowledge the Minister for Disability Issues, the Honourable Ruth Dyson and the Minister for
Transport, the Honourable Paul Swain for their cooperation and support.
This Inquiry is the first to be conducted by the Commission under our new legislation. The Inquiry manager is Bruce
Coleman and, ably supported by Sheryn Duell, he has ensured that the Commission went through a very rigorous process to
determine terms of reference and Inquiry procedures. And for her tireless work to improve the lives of people with
disabilities in New Zealand I would like to acknowledge my colleague and fellow Commissioner Robyn Hunt, who is here
today and who is one of the two Commissioners who will be joining me at the public hearings.
The road to the Inquiry began here in Dunedin in April 2002 when the DPA and other disability groups held a forum to
discuss issues for the transport-disadvantaged. Following that forum, the Transport Working Party (TWP) was formed to
further advance the issues raised.
In October 2002 the TWP invited the Human Rights Commission to host a further transport forum in Dunedin. Reports from
that meeting led the Commission to explore the possibility of conducting an Inquiry into accessible public transport.
At the same time similar issues were being raised in other parts of the country. In Wellington, as in other communities,
there were concerns expressed about premises, infrastructure, conveyances, service information and the role of local
Government in the provision of accessible public land transport.
For both Otago and Wellington, and in fact for all regions, one thing was clear - these concerns required the
involvement of the community as a whole and could not simply be directed toward individual transport operators or
regional councils to address.
Over the last five years, the Commission has received complaints, inquiries and representations that suggested some
elements of the public transport system may not be accessible to people with disabilities. The Commission has been able
to resolve some of these issues using the complaints processes available under the Human Rights Act. However many of the
issues brought to the Commission clearly required a more systemic approach. After research and consultation it was clear
that conducting an Inquiry, using two regions as case studies, would provide the best platform to thoroughly examine the
The Inquiry will look at all aspects of the provision of public land transport and the need for changes to legislation,
regulations, policies and procedures and funding arrangements.
Although the Inquiry will seek input and submissions from throughout the country, the Wellington and Otago regions will
be used as case studies to explore in greater depth the issues for public land transport users and potential users, as
well as organisational responsibilities and responses to the issues and the role that particular regional circumstances
The Inquiry will be split into three phases. As part of the first phase consultation, research and further
identification of the issues will continue into the new year. The second phase will see public hearings start in April.
While the third phase will culminate with the completion of the final Inquiry report later next year.
For many of us access to public transport and ease of mobility can too easily be taken for granted. But for many people
with disabilities public land transport is often their only means of transport. The lack of an accessible public land
transport system can be a significant barrier to full participation in employment, education, recreation, community
activities and other activities.
The preparatory work we've done has helped build a picture of the barriers that people might encounter when trying to
use public transport. Raising the awareness of these barriers among the wider community is an important objective of
this Inquiry. Amongst the issues raised consider the following: * Most cities run phone information services for bus
services. Though the usefulness of these services is obvious, for the deaf and hearing impaired clear issues of access
to the information present themselves; * Similarly ordering a taxi is not so straightforward for this community,
where on-the-spot bookings can generally be made only over the phone; * For those who rely on wheelchairs, guide dogs or
other aids a key issue is the distance and the nature of terrain between home and public transport stations and stops. *
For the blind and visually impaired identifying the public transport service you wish to use can pose a number of
problems as can knowing when you've reached your destination. This can be compounded by the design of buses and trains -
for instance not having the next stop announced on board. It is clear that there will be many issues to consider as part
of the Inquiry. The solutions required will in some cases be complex I'm sure. However as we progress, the positive
response to the Inquiry by many in the public transport sector has been heartening. I am pleased that both John Collins
of the Bus and Coach Association and Nigel Piper of Stagecoach are here today.
The role of central Government will also feature in the Inquiry. Recent Government policy documents recognise inclusion,
full participation in society, and the removal of barriers to participation as key policy objectives for people with
disabilities. The Government has started to address some of the issues affecting the accessibility of public transport
as part of its New Zealand Disability Strategy.
This Strategy recognises that in order to contribute to the objective of supporting quality living in the community for
disabled people, the government will require all new scheduled public transport to be accessible, encourage the
development of accessible routes to connect buildings, public spaces and transport systems and develop nationally
consistent access to passenger services where there is no accessible public transport. In addition to the Disability
Strategy there are other government policy documents that will be relevant to the Inquiry.
The Government, working alongside the Human Rights Commission and NGOs, has recently made a positive impact in the
international arena. In June a New Zealand delegation, comprising Human Rights Commissioner Robyn Hunt and Government
and NGO representatives, took a lead role in the development of a UN Convention on the rights of people with
The delegation played a major role in proposing a working group to develop text for the draft convention. New Zealand's
leadership and progressive approach to disability issues was acknowledged by other delegations and non-governmental
The significance of this achievement should not be overlooked. Over the past fifty years a number of important
international conventions have created the modern framework for ensuring fundamental human rights are realised as widely
as possible. The eventual completion of a convention on the rights of people with disabilities represents an important
pillar in this framework. The June meeting saw an important step toward that goal.
New Zealand has a valuable role to play at the International level but only if we are honest about the situation here.
This Inquiry will contribute to the process of putting our own house in order.