Children discrimination (cont)

A continuation of the Dunedin’s children discrimination case. The question is if children under 15 should be treated as people. It appears that people under 16 in New Zealand (unlike other countries) are not covered by the Universal Declaration of Human rights. Fascinating. Below is a final email and my reply with the New Zealand Human Rights commissioner office.


On 26/08/10 2:49 PM, Cecelia O’Dell wrote:
Dear Mariusz

As you have been made aware, your initial complaint alleging age discrimination could not be canvased because the age provisions under the Human Rights Act start from the age of 16+. We then considered whether family status, disability and the aged as identified by you might apply.

The Commission’s solicitor provided the following analysis:

The scheme allows those who live outside the designated area through the use of vouchers to take advantage of a limited no. of parking spaces near the campuses. You have to be 15 or over to qualify for a voucher.

The complainant asserts that because the scheme provides: “preference to 2 people instead of 4 and to students instead of single parents with young children or elderly (or mobility disabled)” it is discriminatory.

There is nothing in the information provided which says that it applies to only two people; it says there must be at least two people with valid vouchers in the car when it’s parked. There is nothing in the scheme which says that single parents or the elderly or the mobility disabled cannot apply for a voucher.

Is it a case of indirect discrimination? Is it a scheme which in effect gives preference to young, able-bodied students who are not parents. There is no evidence of that.

The age restriction is not a problem as you need to be 16+ before you can complain of age discrimination. I suspect 15 was chosen as that is the age when it becomes legal to drive.

Even if my analysis is wrong, i.e. it is a scheme which in effect gives preference to young, able-bodied students who are not parents, a complainant would need to show “some real disadvantage” as a result of not being able to park in the designated places. The map suggests that there are numerous other parking spots available throughout the areas where the designated parking is made available. On the information available it would be very difficult to sustain a claim of real disadvantage.

For this reason, the Commission will not be progressing this matter further and the file will be closed.

Should you disagree with our response to your complaint, you are entitled to take the matter to the Human Rights Review Tribunal, either directly or by seeking representation from the Director of Human Rights Proceedings. These agencies can be contacted at (09) 375 8623 or (04) 918 8300, respectively. In making this referral, we are not suggesting that their consideration of the matter would be different than that of the Commission.

I also understand from Bruce Conaghan (DCC) that in his previous email communication with you he identified an option that may meet your needs and therefore, does not believe further dialogue about this matter will serve a useful purpose.

I am sorry we could not assist you and wish you the best wishes for your future endeavors.

Yours sincerely
Cecelia O’Dell


Dear Cecilia,

If the scheme is fair and does not discriminate single parents, can DCC provide an evidence (just one example) of single parent employed by the University with 2 dependent children participating in the scheme and sharing ride with a driver? If such an example does not exist, then it is futile to claim the scheme is fair, isn’t it?

Please consider the following argument:

I want to share ride following the rules of the scheme. I am university staff member and I have applied for a voucher, which I have now. I do not have a car therefore I’d like to share a ride with a driver.

Case A: I am alone. I can meet a driver anywhere around my area easily I can walk to his/her house. I can use a different driver every day, depending on the circumstances. I will occupy only one seat. No extra equipment is needed for me to participate. I will not cry, vomit, or poo in the car. It is easy for me to share a ride with a Rideshare driver. The scheme works for me.

Case B: I am a single parent with two dependent children. I need the driver’s vehicle to have child-seats installed. I need the vehicle to come to MY HOUSE as I cannot physically carry two children together with baby-seats every morning few blocks to the driver premises. The trip will be noisy, the kids may cry, poo, vomit. It is just not practical to be putting baby seats on and off every morning, so I will need to ask the driver to ALWAYS use a set of baby seats in his/car car. I have failed to find the driver. The scheme does not work for me.

Case C: I am a 4 year old human being, attending University childcare. I am not eligible to participate in the scheme at all. I attend the University childcare every day, same as my older siblings attend the University. What is so different between me (<15yo) and me in the future (>15yo) so that I am not allowed to be treated as a passenger?

Cecelia, I appreciate your help and assistance with this matter. To me it is very simple practical problem of local government making mistakenly a discriminatory regulation into a bylaw. I did not think anything can be done to fix it through normal legal channels. Bruce will never admit he made a mistake – of course. Think about how impractical it would be: DCC would have to be reviewed, all the tickets would have to be refunded, heads would roll, and so on. I’ve experienced the ‘boys clubs’ mentality before – it is very strongly entrenched in this small country where everyone knows everyone. Trying to changing any of the (often wrong) status quo borderlines with madness. I’m not surprised.
The change has to come from within DCC. It needs to look as if it was their idea all along. If they are sane the change will come. And it will. Because it is the right thing to do. […]

The only thing I am surprised about is that in the country where so much fuss is being made about child abuse, children under 16 are not treated as human beings. That, I think, is a very serious problem, with far reaching consequences. Perhaps my children will fight and establish a Human Right Commissioner office for people under 16 once their grow up. Who knows… 😉

have a great weekend

best regards

2 thoughts on “Children discrimination (cont)

  1. Bruce Conaghan

    The scheme has never been discriminatory as the Rideshare Scheme has always been based on the requirement for those participating to have a valid New Zealand Drivers Licence since Dunedin City Council / Univeristy of Otago / Otago Polytechnic put it in place. This is the key aspect of the scheme if it is to work – it is not about providing free parking for individuals as appears to have been intimated in the correspondence. Interestingly enough, options to cater for solo parents had been identified given that the scheme only requires a minimum of two Rideshare permits to be displayed. The decision of the Human Rights Commission is correct taking into account all of the information relating to the Rideshare Scheme from its inception.

    However, the scheme did suffer abuse and recent monitoring showed this to be the case and led to the recommendation that the scheme be discontinued. This recommendation adopted by Council was not taken lightly. However, for any scheme such as this to be successful, it does require a high level of compliance, and it could be inferred honesty, and this outcome reflects this less than minor level of non-compliance which is a shame given the overall benefits in terms of providing sustainable tranpsort initiatives.

    1. mariusz Post author

      Thank you for your comments. I appreciate your thoughts and your perspective on this particular issue. You make a number of claims, such as “the scheme requires people to have a valid new zealand driving license” – can you please provide evidence, research and data that supports your assumptions and claims?

      Please, step back, imagine that there is no scheme in place in Dunedin and just appreciate the concept of Ride-sharing that exists everywhere else in the world. What is it for? What problems Ride-sharing addresses? What values it teaches to people and to children, and who does it help? What research has been done elsewhere and how successful Ride-sharing schemes work?

      I am not questioning the decision but I do question the process The Human Rights commissioner followed. There was no independent opinion consultation with traffic and regulatory specialists (in the country or overseas). The issue has been raised, they have consulted with the original designer of the scheme (you), and the case was dismissed. Why would you ever consider re-writing the scheme, if you believed it to be correct in the first place anyway, right?

      None really followed the issues raised, and none really considered what everyone else in the world is doing, and no research has been undertaken. Why not?

      Ridesharing is not about “driving license requirement” – it is about ride sharing and I’ve collected and given plenty of example in regulatory schemes everywhere else in the world, and explained how these schemes work. None of that was considered for discussion. Why? You have to ask yourself if Dunedin City Council really followed up on research from everywhere else in the world, and if they truly and fully done their homework, or, if they have acted in good faith but made some design choices that were not optimal.

      I believe Rides-sharing the way it is done elsewhere is a very good thing, and should be introduced not by local administrative units but by central road administration, the way it is done elsewhere. It is not about helping one or the other group of people. It is about helping people, period. It should send a simple message: “Do not drive alone. Share your rides”. It is that simple.

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