Minister must act to address serious transport issues

In News5 MinutesBy Nick LeggettApril 6, 2023

Today is a good opportunity to talk about the kind of advocacy work Transporting New Zealand does on the industry’s behalf in Wellington.

Last week we wrote to Transport Minister Michael Wood urging him to take urgent action to address three issues of serious concern to the road transport sector.

Those issues are: service disruptions affecting Interislander ferries; container supply chain blockages; and incorporating “Road to success” in our upcoming Transport Sector Agreement.


Breakdowns and cancellations have plagued Cook Strait ferries recently, including both Bluebridge and Interislander services. The government holds a share in KiwiRail, which operates the Interislander ferries on behalf of New Zealanders.

Transporting New Zealand has received a strong message from our industry that the disruptions to ferry services are wreaking havoc with the movement and management of freight. Coordination of driver work hours and general fatigue and stress of workforces are also causing concern. One major national carrier messaged me on the weekend in a very stressed state saying that service disruptions were “crippling” their operations.

Transporting New Zealand is aware of the challenges associated with resolving these issues, including the labour shortage and the additional time being required to source parts and maintenance capacity. KiwiRail management needs to provide a clearly articulated plan to manage these service disruptions in the short to medium term, which will restore confidence in the reliability of ferry services. We would be happy to brief officials on the measures that would reassure industry, including the leasing of replacement vessels or measures to prioritise freight delivery.

Container supply chain blockages

Difficulties have developed in the New Zealand container supply chain. Container volumes at storage depots in Auckland and the Bay of Plenty are now significantly over capacity. This is constraining operations at those depots and causing adverse impacts on importers and exporters.

Importers in Auckland have lengthening delays clearing empty containers. Supplying containers to exporters is a problem that is re-emerging and will be a material constraint for Waikato, Auckland, and Bay of Plenty exporters in 2024. In other words, this problem is expanding.

The immediate problem flows from the introduction of berthing windows in Auckland and Tauranga ports. Freight companies are struggling to find the time to deliver needed empty containers or shipping containers out of New Zealand and this issue is exacerbated by inefficiencies at the port where we believe developing a “one in, one out” management system could significantly improve productivity.

Increasing container processing capacity is also going to be vital to solving this issue. In the Bay of Plenty the development of the 12-hectare industrial zone at Te Puna has been delayed by consent processes. This means the 2024 export season for containerised produce will inevitably be compromised.

Additional short-term capacity has been created through the use of temporary yard space, plus freight forwarders and road transport company yards. These are now at capacity. We are encouraging the minister to consider an accelerated consent process for container storage space as an effective measure to alleviate this growing problem.

Incorporating ‘Road to success’ in the Transport Sector Agreement

Transporting New Zealand recently met with MBIE officials to discuss our support for the Transport Sector Agreement. Transporting New Zealand is proposing that completing the Road to success tertiary qualifications pathway should be a prerequisite for sector agreement residency. In addition, we have encouraged Immigration New Zealand to consider how immigration settings could incentivise employers to enrol their non-migrant drivers in Road to success.

Transporting New Zealand shared our submission with Minister Wood’s office on 17 February 2023. Unfortunately, MBIE officials appeared reluctant to support this proposal, citing administrative difficulties with implementation. This is despite the proposal aligning with the objectives of the government’s immigration rebalance, and the minister’s own commitment to local workforce development. We have encouraged the minister to engage with his officials around how any administrative difficulties with the proposal could be overcome.

On behalf of the team at Transporting New Zealand, I’d like to take the opportunity to wish you a restful Easter weekend.

By Nick Leggett, chief executive at Ia Ara Aotearoa Transporting New Zealand.