A silly season like no other

In News5 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineNovember 5, 2021

They call Christmas the silly season, but this week things went beyond silly for Aucklanders.

The Prime Minister and Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told media on Wednesday that the road border would remain around Auckland through Christmas and that only the vaccinated would be allowed out. That would of course, result in massive traffic queues, so that could potentially be managed by people having allocated days/times to leave the city. What would the criteria be – alphabetical, suburb, destination, naughty or nice?

All we see from that is long delays for freight at one of the busiest times of the year; animals stuck in trucks for hours on end in the summer heat and getting distressed and dying; perishable food being destroyed and wasted; and a huge toll on the health and wellbeing of truck drivers who will go over their driving hours, miss connections for their freight, and have to face the carnage beyond the border when frustrated drivers finally make it through and put their foot down and crash.

I’m not being Ebenezer Scrooge here, quite the reverse, I’d like to see a happy Christmas all around. Anyone who speaks to Aucklanders regularly knows they are ready for some reward from months of being locked up. They have done what has been asked of them, been vaccinated and stayed at home, with some glimmer of hope they might be able to enjoy summer or indeed, keep their businesses, livelihoods and homes.

The Police don’t want to be running road borders north and south of Auckland through Christmas. They know the volume of traffic they’d have to try and manage and they also know that’s a busy time of year for all the other issues the Police need to deal with. The Auckland road borders are labour intensive for the Police and it has to be asked, is this the best use of their resources over a three, four, or possibly even five, month period?

That leads to the big question of what is the problem we are trying to solve here?

With a goal of 90% of the eligible population vaccinated against Covid-19, we were supposed to see some sort of return to normal life. That has happened all around the world at lower targets than 90%

All life has risks and businesses run risk management plans to stay solvent and meet the law. As we offer our views to Government on behalf of industry, we are unclear what risk matrix they are running.

Is the only risk they are trying to mitigate with the Auckland borders death from Covid-19?

Singular risk is an unusual approach to risk management. Because each risk comes with a cascading set of risks that also need to be managed. The 90% vaccination rate was supposed to be the mitigator for mass deaths from Covid-19. That is certainly a success story and one that hasn’t been able to be shared across other causes of considerable deaths in New Zealand, such as the road toll, or lifestyle related health issues.

The other risks that come from a closed-off Auckland with hard road borders, and indeed a closed border to the world outside New Zealand, include psychosocial, economic, reputation, trade, and deaths from all manner of other knock-on effects of such a singular policy. These risks also need to be considered.

We are concerned by the muddled thinking we are seeing from Government and the process of trying to retrofit advice and policy to support statements made on the fly to media or at the daily press conferences.

It is now, when people are tired and it is showing, that real leadership is required.

By Nick Leggett, CEO, Transporting New Zealand