One of my passions as Nelson’s MP is championing practical law changes that will prevent tragedies and save lives. Two such causes are requiring smoke alarms and introducing random roadside drug testing.
House fires have historically killed about 18 people per year in New Zealand, with most in winter. I have dealt with the trauma of parents losing their children in house fires and words cannot describe the grief. I changed the tenancy laws as Building Minister in 2016 requiring smoke alarms. These laws are working with the number of fatalities halving since.
My frustration is we have had three house fires this July, in Tiaphi St and Konini St in Nelson and in Thomasson Ave in Motueka where there were no working smoke alarms. A family pet died in one and a man hospitalised in the other but thankfully no one was killed. Two other house fires last week in Campbell and Nile Streets had smoke alarms and were quickly extinguished. Ten year life smoke alarms cost less than $50. I urge landlords, tenants and homeowners to ensure they have the required smoke alarms. If cost is a barrier, get in touch with my office as help is available.
Drug impaired drivers kill 95 people per year. That is now more than from drunk drivers. My involvement in the drugged driver issue came about with the horrific New Year’s Eve crash over two years ago in Appleby that killed 23 year old Matthew Dow. I have worked with his grief stricken parents Karen and Peter Dow on their petition supported by over 4,000 Nelsonians on getting New Zealand to introduce roadside drug testing. Most other countries like Australia and the UK have such testing and it is working well in saving lives.
The incoming Government dismissed detailed proposals from officials in 2018 for random roadside drug testing. Green Party Road Safety Minister Julie Anne Genter said the saliva testing was too intrusive. She questioned the risks posed by recreational drug use.
I tried to introduce a bill last year to Parliament to do it but was unusually blocked by Speaker Trevor Mallard (Usually the decision to introduce a bill is Parliaments, not the Speakers). I objected, got named and had my pay docked. I make no apologies for causing this fracas. This issue is causing so many preventable deaths. It was confirmed this month that the two Nelson deaths on the Stoke Bypass 18 months ago was yet another attributed to drug impaired driving.
I was so pleased last December when the Government announced a change of policy in support of random roadside drug testing. Julie Anne Genter promised the bill would be introduced early in 2020. It still has not done so.
I will be challenging the Government again this week in Parliament on this issue and will again attempt to introduce the much needed legislation. This needed to be resolved before the cannabis referendum on 19 September. I will not let up. I owe it to the memory and family of Matthew Dow and so many other innocent people killed. We need to get drug impaired drivers off our roads.