Like the year 2020 generally, it felt like New Zealanders just wanted the election to be over and done with. That probably goes for the politicians too!
Weariness had set in over recent weeks, possibly because most people felt the overall result was ‘baked in’ and a forgone conclusion. Most of us knew there would be a Labour Government in some form. The questions remained though, would they need the Greens and would Winston sneak over the line?
Full credit to Jacinda Ardern and her team, they won big. Kiwis recognised the hard work of the government during the Covid crisis and they opted for stability. It is true that we will need stability as, in the view of the RTF, the worst of the crisis is ahead of us with the economic challenges we will face over the next few years.
Whether the PM chooses to enter into some kind of arrangement with the Greens or the Maori Party is open for discussion for a little while longer, although it has clearly been signalled that this will not be a coalition government.
It probably isn’t any secret that the RTF won’t be disappointed to see the Green Party out of transport. Their lack of understanding around the movement of freight, let alone a blatant antagonism towards roading, is palpable. That will be part of the PM’s balancing act.
Of course, we are keen to work with whoever is selected transport minister; be it the incumbent Phil Twyford, who we enjoy engaging with, or somebody new. The opportunity for a transport sector accord, as suggested by Twyford and promoted by RTF, would be a really constructive way of partnering with the government around the challenges we face, including with workforce, skills, regulations and health and safety.
Labour does need to do more than it did in its first term to meet business halfway. We are concerned with their proposed agenda when it comes to employment legislation; doing away with the owner-driver or contractor-driver model and forcing rules that will make it harder for our industry to keep delivering for New Zealand’s economic wellbeing.
We will keep up the fight for better roads. We know industry can have an impact here, given that our recent calls for an increase in the roading maintenance budget resulted in the government increasing the amount spent by $100 million per annum for the next five years.
Finally, like all of the private sector, the road transport industry requires infrastructure investment to be delivered, not just announced. We will be eager champions of the rollout of projects, both roading and others, as they will improve the ability of trucking operators to go about their work on safer roads, and will also provide work for industry members supporting the construction sector.
I consider that this election brings the road transport industry a lot of opportunities. We have a chance to put our renewed case, to both the government and the public – as neither group understands as well as they could – what we do every day to keep New Zealand moving. We also have the opportunity to work alongside officials and politicians to propose opportunities for improved regulatory rules, safety outcomes and to build our workforce capability and supply through the Te ara ki tua Road to Success traineeship programme.
RTF will brief the incoming Minister of Transport on the key industry issues and I’ll report on the content of that briefing in the coming weeks. It will help set our agenda over the coming parliamentary term.
By Nick Leggett, CE, Road Transport Forum