Counting our chicks

In Newsletter Editorial5 MinutesBy Gavin MyersAugust 11, 2023

I’m wary of politicising every second editorial I write. Still, it’s prudent at this time in the election cycle to keep on top of all the goings-on in the lead-up to the general election. And there is much going on – so much so that one begins to think that there’s no way we can have it all.

That applies as much to transport as it does to every other societal and economic sector vying for its needs to be met (and consequently becoming a hot political topic). Healthcare, education, crime and policing, the labour market… transport is not alone. The unfortunate reality for our industry, when one considers all those other needs, is it may not rank as highly in the minds of politicians and the voting public as we’d like it to.

We know the importance of a functional and efficient transport industry to every sector of the economy. We also know too well that the industry can fall victim to an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality – if trucking gets stuff where it needs to be, all is well… isn’t it?

That’s why I find it encouraging that long-decried transport and roading issues feature highly on the electoral agenda this year. I wouldn’t count our chicks before they’ve hatched, but it’s positive our issues are front and centre before the politicians and the public.

This week alone has been a hot one. The first story off the ranks on Sunday was the unveiling by transport minister David Parker and prime minister Chris Hipkins of the chosen option for a second Auckland Harbour crossing. It was undoubtedly a decision that needed to be announced before the elections – Labour will need to be able to claim it once it’s finally complete – and one that, to me, was unsurprising. It would’ve been contrary to the status quo not to include all modes for all people, which is 100% fine. What worries me – aside from the shambles that Auckland light rail is in now – is the cost, the time, and what will happen to the plan should there be a changing of the guard come October.

As it is, Hipkins commented it would be “into the next decade before we see it”. No doubt, as infrastructure projects go, this one’s a biggie. The need for a second crossing is undeniable. But if the track record set by other recent big ones (Transmission Gully, Puhoi to Warkworth, and so on) is anything to go by, that cost and timeframe will be an underestimation.

From crossing one body of water to another… Yesterday, news broke of more woes besetting Interislander’s poor old Kaitaki en route to Picton on Wednesday evening. She didn’t make it much further than the Wellington Heads before suffering steering issues.

From a road transport perspective, one can imagine the hellfire that would rain down if a vehicle was sent out with the potential it could lose its steering, and it then did. Transporting New Zealand interim chief executive Dom Kalasih commented that, “if KiwiRail did not address the issues on its ferries, it would one day prove fatal”. Sadly, he’s right. And worse still, I fear it’s only when that ‘I told you so’ moment happens that we’ll see some form of hellfire over KiwiRail.

The continual issues besetting the ferries are beyond niggling; they are a crucial link in SH1 and hold paying commuters entirely at their mercy. And that’s unacceptable.

But for now, all we can do is keep the conversation going and the issues in the spotlight – especially once the polls close.

Take care out there,

Gavin Myers