THE LAST MILE - Potpourri

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

There have been so many strange goings on recently that it was difficult to focus on one, so for this month I will comment on a number. First, Wellington is now officially … Wellington. In July the New Zealand Geographic Board, this is the government agency that is responsible for assigning names to places and locations in New Zealand, officially named Wellington as Wellington. This raises an interesting point, if Wellington was not the official name of Wellington, where does that leave the Wellington City Council, the rates they have levied, and the fines they have collected over the years? Have they been operating and making decisions under false pretences or without legal authority? Also, in Wellington, on 16 July Stuff reported that the electric-vehicle chargers installed by the council were used 1 to 3% of the time they were available. A spokesperson from the council is reported as saying that this “is an acceptable usage level”.

How many transport operators would consider 1 to 3% use of an asset as acceptable? But then transport operators do not have access to public money in the same way councils and governments do, and don’t employ spin doctors either. In the same story Stuff reported that the council installed a kerbside charger in what is one of Wellington’s oldest and narrowest streets; originally it was a bullock track leading up to farms on the hills behind. Apparently, many of the residents did not support this installation. Some claim it was put there because one resident had an EV. The council went ahead regardless, suggesting that it would give the suburb’s residents the opportunity to choose an EV next time they bought a vehicle. A photo published with the Stuff article showed that the footpath is extremely narrow, with little room for two people to walk past each other without an electrical box obstructing their way. It seems strange to me that this box was installed by the same council that recently announced it would like to ban cars from roads in the CDB, to make the roads more pedestrianand cyclist-friendly, the same council that is actively pursuing a no-cars policy in the city.

How can you have an active no-cars policy on one hand when you are actively supporting the purchase of them on the other? Meanwhile, from Auckland we read that the council there went ahead and approved a 3.5% increase in rates despite overwhelming public consultation on the proposal only supporting a 2.5% increase. Mind you this would not be the first time councils, and government, have gone against what they were being told through the consultation process, and it certainly won’t be the last. Some years back when I was on the fringe of working in an area where almost everything we did had to go through the public consultation process, I quickly learnt that the underlying rule was “we consult but I decide”. When developing a proposal a bottom line would be established and some wriggle room was added to give the impression that public consultation had been listened to. The reality was that consultation was more of a hassle that had to take place rather than a genuine attempt to let public opinion inform the policy and eventual outcome. I have no doubt that approach has not changed much over the years so it will be interesting to follow the installation of the NZTA’s weigh-in-motion site at Rakaia, as I understand there is quite a bit of opposition to the site chosen.

It is pleasing to read that the Road Transport Forum is suggesting that New Zealand should have a similar analysis of crashes involving trucks as is done by National Transport Insurance in Australia through their National Truck Accident Research Centre (NTARC). (The latest report can be found at https://ntarc.nationaltransportinsurance.com.au/.) Having an independent analysis done of any data can be beneficial to track how our industry is preforming. It is a pity therefore that when NTI tried to establish a business in New Zealand some years back, the RTF at the time was not so supportive of the idea. An opportunity lost. No matter what your political persuasion, one thing we can all be sure about is that there will be difficult times ahead for most of us. But, I have no doubt that collectively the industry will meet the challenges and do what it has always done, which is provide the services required to keep New Zealand moving.