A flawed democracy

5 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineNovember 23, 2018


It‘s annoying that some of the spin coming from the NZTA with regard to the future of compliance management is sounding ever more ominous and direr, as if responsibility for the calamitous compliance mess we find ourselves in currently, in some way, lays at the feet of the end users. Considering businesses at the coalface are the ones with trailers parked up and tow couplings that aren‘t worth snot, it‘s a bit rich to be ditching a communicative overtone of abject humility at this early juncture given the realisation that the entire system the NZTA is responsible for overseeing is shyte. All we, the end users, have ever wanted is fair, well resourced, and well-informed consistency, in all aspects of the agency‘s activities.

Take this quote from NZTA chief executive Fergus Gammie: “For many years the NZTA has operated a high trust, devolved regulatory regime, working with a network of qualified professionals to carry out services and focusing on ongoing education to address issues.”

Really? At this point I‘d like to draw the agency‘s attention to some basic human behaviour traits, through the simple example of speed limits. It‘s not a difficult law to grasp. You are not supposed to drive your car any faster than the number on the sign. Now that‘s a largely devolved regulatory regime at its core. We don‘t physically speed limit cars, trusting good, honest people to comply voluntarily. The result is of course mayhem. We need a road policing unit, speed cameras in all their forms, and the end result is speed is still cited as the number one killer on the roads.

At our primal core we are a recalcitrant, promiscuous being. Good people speed, jump fences to get into sports grounds, smuggle booze into dry venues, run red lights, fail to stop, take stuff from motel and hotel rooms, overload vehicles, fudge log books, ‘nick‘ milk and coffee from the work smoko room; the list is endless every day.

Mention ‘Singapore‘ to most people and there‘ll be an element of squirming. The country has many social statistics that are the envy of the free world even though it‘s a flawed democracy. One thing Lee Kuan Yew knew as he was knocking the joint into shape according to his style, was that rules need to be enforced consistently, and left to their own devices, humans will run amok. It‘s interesting because they‘ve created an environment where even people travelling there from places like New Zealand subconsciously raise the bar on their own personal level of compliance. A Kiwi smoker prone to chucking their butts into the gutter here probably won‘t in Singapore because they know the rules, and know the consequences of breaking them. There‘s a lesson in all that for the NZTA.

We‘ve decided as a nation that we don‘t want to compromise our liberty to the same extent Singapore does, and we accept higher levels of disobedience as the daily price we pay for that. But where rules are needed to ensure public wellbeing and commercial fairness, those rules must be policed, enforced consistently, enforced fairly, and without compromise, and that means resourcing.

Opting for a “devolved regulatory regime” is nothing more than attempting to hang some trite, insulting, label on what is (hopefully was) a recent history of restructuring and resource axing in the name of penny pinching, choosing instead to consume much of the precious resource remaining on frivolous crap like reinvention and rebranding.


All the best

Dave McCoid