Comment: Referendum result must be honoured

By: Nick Leggett, Road Transport CEO

The ‘no’ result of the referendum on legalising recreational cannabis is something of a success for RTF, says CEO Nick Leggett, as he urges the government to honour the results

It’s quite extraordinary to see a number of New Zealand media commentators (rightly) admonish Donald Trump for not acknowledging the election result in the US then turn around and call for our Government to do exactly what he’s doing and defy the result of the recent referendum on legalising recreational cannabis.

They justify this rank hypocrisy by saying that as the referendum result was close (50.7% to 48.4%), opposing it is the ‘right thing to do’, which is a strange justification in what was an unquestionably fair democratic process.


Both the Labour Party, which is now basically governing alone, and the Greens, whose sponsorship of the issue led to the referendum in the first place, said prior to the election that they would consider the result of the referendum to be binding. New Zealanders expect them to now honour that promise.

The ‘no’ result is something of a success for RTF, as we worked hard to ensure our industry was aware of some of the unintended consequences of legalising recreational cannabis, including the impact on road safety and for workplace health and safety.

It’s true that there are other more harmful drugs out there than cannabis but legalising it was not going to help those within our industry that spend​​ most of their working lives managing dangerous workplace environments, including on our roads.

As RTF has consistently stated, the policy work around the impacts of cannabis legalisation has never been thoroughly investigated, which left too many unanswered questions for our industry.

If you compare the cannabis referendum with the other referendum that ran at the same time on voluntary euthanasia, it was chalk and cheese. Voters knew exactly what they were getting if they voted for the End of Life Choice Act. The consequences of a ‘yes’ vote were laid out in black and white and that was reflected in a decisive win for the pro-euthanasia campaign.

Maybe rather than trying to relitigate the result, supporters of legalising cannabis should reflect on what it was that voters rejected, because they may find out that for many voters, taking a leap of faith when it comes to workplace health and safety was just not acceptable.

The election itself provided Labour with the mandate to virtually govern alone and has resulted in Jacinda Ardern appointing a new minister of transport, Michael Wood.

Early indications are positive, with Wood seeking to take a more pragmatic and less ideological approach to road transport than Phil Twyford and Julie-Anne Genter.

In RTF’s initial briefing to the incoming minister, we outlined the contribution of the road transport industry to the New Zealand economy, the key role trucking has in meeting the freight task, the convenience of door-to-door freight deliveries, and the resilience to our freight network offered by road transport.

We want the Government to work more closely with our industry and to prioritise the development of a comprehensive freight strategy for New Zealand. COVID-19 has meant there are some significant supply chain issues ahead and we will be asking the Government to commit immediate attention to this. We do not produce everything in New Zealand and are an export-based economy, so the free movement of goods is essential. At this stage, we’re not sure this Government and its officials fully understand the importance of the supply chain or even how it works.

Another priority for us is to gain more transparency about where the National Land Transport Fund is spent and to ensure RUCs are invested in road building and maintenance. We’ve also requested a partnership with the Government on our driver shortage challenges and assistance with important components such as a more fit-for-purpose licensing system and the Te ara ki tua Road to Success programme.

RTF’s full briefing to the incoming minister is available at

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