Glazing into the Crystal Ball for 2023

In February 2023, Carrier's Corner6 MinutesBy Blake NobleMarch 2, 2023

‘Significant’ is a word I think will feature regularly as we look across the coming year and review the shorter- and longer-term decisions made for the country’s health, wealth and prosperity.

Whether you have a political leaning or not, it’s hard to deny the year ahead will be immensely significant politically. Towards the end of the year, we’ll see an election I suspect has the potential to be the most ideologically driven election we’ve seen in recent times – such are the spectrum of issues and challenges on a local and global stage and the public sentiment attached to the various portfolios.

You can start with the ongoing inflation and cost-of-living dialogue flowing across the country and generating media hype. Again, putting political persuasions aside, it’s hard for anyone to argue that we’re seeing an increasing portion of the population facing poverty, housing and general wellbeing issues – something none of us feels happy about nor is prepared to accept.

Sadly, however, the past couple of political terms have further highlighted that for all the best policies and intentions in the world, if the execution isn’t there, the dial simply won’t move on such issues, no matter how critical and pressing they may be.

Sustainability and environmental focus are also sure to feature from all parties since, like it or not, we must collectively set a course for where we’re heading with this carbon-reduced future. A significant question remains for the country to ask itself and be honest about the answer: Can we afford to lead the world in some of these elements, and if so, are we truly prepared to accept the potential short- and medium-term economic consequences thereof? The foundations of our global trade have been formed on the shoulders of our primary industries (meat, dairy, forestry); one surmises the impact of the decisions we make come election day may likely have the greatest impact on those sectors than any election has ever had.

Throwing on my road transport industry hat, I see a critical need for us to take a clear stand on our expectations in several key areas, highlighting (but not limited to) the following:

•Long-term infrastructure (not just roading) planning and execution – where are we going?

• Clarity of spending – where is ‘our’ money going, and how does it align with the above?

• Greater integration of transport modes done in a collaborative (local and central government, and mode type) manner with tangible and, more importantly, measurable long-term benefits, not just ideological box-ticking projects.

I remain of the view that we’re still to develop a true bottom line as to the expectation our industry holds the government accountable for, and I would ask each of you to seriously consider what we need to see from a potential government to win us over – and are prepared to hold them to.

It’s easy pickings here, and the state of our roads is an easy target. I particularly enjoyed the recent blog post by Nick Leggett on the broader topic of roading and Waka Kotahi’s potential abdication of responsibility in the Road to Zero campaign that brilliantly sums up the current lie of the land. I’m personally looking forward to seeing what our respective industry bodies piece together in the way of election forums for us to have our potential representatives ‘show us their wares’. It should make for an enlightening showcase and is something we need to ensure we vocally (and respectfully) support.

Parking the political bus, we head for another joyous topic that every media outlet seems determined to predetermine the arrival of – a potential recession. For my sanity, I’ve barred myself from taking too much notice of local media on this front and maintain that the outcome of any significant economic event will be whatever we believe the outcome is going to be – positive or negative. Fresh from a ‘Covid-19 bootcamp’ for our businesses across the past three years, one gets the sense the pandemic might’ve been just the warm-up needed to hone our agility, efficiency and resolve to fend off whatever might get through in our direction.

As with every year since the wheels began turning and Archimedes and his pals kicked off their mule-powered road transport operations, I have a strong sense that it’ll be another ‘R’ word that our industry once more brings to the fore, though: resilience. Best of luck making 2023 yours!