Arrogance or Ignorance

In The Last Mile, November 20224 MinutesBy The Accidental TruckerDecember 6, 2022

An article published on Newsroom on 25 August draws attention to the shortfall in funding NZTA needs to maintain our roads. The article says that NZTA has already spent 80% of its budget one year into its three-year funding cycle. The culprits are said to be the weather and of course Covid-19, which NZTA says resulted in 11% reduction in income. What? Did the agency expect its income to remain the same while everybody else took a nosedive? One only must look at the revenue from RUC published regularly in this magazine to see how much this has affected NZTA income. But in one respect, we should all rejoice because the government has loaned NZTA $2 billion to compensate for this. As it’s only a loan, the expectations are that NZTA will pay the government back. The story suggests officials from the Ministry of Transport have told the minister that the current Land Transport Revenue Review will consider this shortfall; for ‘consider this shortfall’, it is easy to read price increases across the board.

The ‘officials’ are also quoted as telling the minister that “high levels of staff turnover are adversely impacting productivity and momentum”. This comes at the time the agency is reported as having acquired 1000 more staff than it had in 2017, with most of the increase in what are called back-office jobs. For example, the number of human resources staff has increased from 51 to 118. Something doesn’t sit right with me, particularly when one recalls the recent round of redundancies at the agency, with some leaving having 10 or more years of service in the vital areas of vehicle safety and driver licensing.

Meanwhile, another government agency that’s looking a bit dodgy is WorkSafe NZ. A story by Radio New Zealand on 17 August opens by saying, “WorkSafe lacks a clear strategy, and it cannot say if its activities are cost- effective or reducing workplace harm, an independent review has found.” The story originates from a review commissioned by Workplace Relations Safety Minister Michael Wood. Yes, the same Michael Wood who is also minister of transport.

This report does make for interesting reading and, at more than 150 pages, it is hard going but does contain some ‘interesting’ findings that affect our industry. For example, on page 15, it says: “Responses to fatigue in the road freight transport industry: given the current lack of agreement over roles and responsibilities of government transport-related agencies, as the regulator and system leader WorkSafe should be intervening as a matter of urgency. This could include conducting a targeted complex intervention in fatigue in the road transport freight industry.”

On this news , it recommends that [WorkSafe NZ] “reconsiders its view that it is not funded for activities in the transport sector”. Clearly, this report highlights an issue that has hung over the industry for some time: who is the regulator for the road transport industry? NZTA, as the operational agent for the Ministry of Transport, or WorkSafe NZ? Not to mention the police as an enforcement agency that works across both?

Our roads – something to consider

About 300B.C., the Romans recognised the importance of having a substantial roading network as vital to their communities’ economic wellbeing and survival. They undoubtedly built their roads using the best materials and technology. Some of the roads are still usable today. Why is it 2000 or so years later – with all the advancements made by humans – that we cannot build roads that last longer than a few months?