More action on government reforms and risk – Transporting New Zealand

In News6 MinutesBy Dom KalasihJune 21, 2024

First up, a shout out to NZTA with its announcement this week that the Brynderwyn Hills road is set to reopen in just over a week’s time – right on time for the Matariki long weekend.

And secondly a shout-out to all our members and their teams and other road users that have put up with the inconvenience and additional time, money and costs while the road was being reinstated.

The amount of earthworks and the considerable effort this has taken to fix the road are considerable so well done to all the teams working on it. I think overall this has been another good demonstration of that thing that Kiwis are renowned for, in terms of tolerance and resilience, of ultimately accepting the situation for what it is and getting on with it.

Hot on the heels of the public interest in the announcement about pothole funding last week came the announcement from the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety, Brooke van Velden, about a substantial review of health and safety.

This comes as no surprise as alarm bells were ringing last year when now ex-WorkSafe chief executive Phil Parkes met our board and shared the efforts his organisation was going to on the Whakaari/White Island prosecutions.

As has been recently reported, WorkSafe budgeted $16m to cover the cost of these prosecutions. Now this is an organisation that had been set up with $87m in funding, mostly from the health and safety work levy. Granted that figure rose steadily to an annual $141m, but the amount it was spending on prosecutions for one event seemed completely out of whack to me and most of our Board members.

It’s hardly surprising to hear it had an $18m deficit last year and needed a government bailout.

It’s a sad state of affairs when Minister van Velden has summed up our safety culture as “the sea of orange road cones that have taken over the country”.

“From Santa parades to property development, you can’t get a lot done without having to set up a barricade of cones.”

I’d add she could have equally used hi-viz vests as another risk control, but when you consider the multitude of workplaces we have in New Zealand, and think back to one of the key defining moments that initiated the establishment of WorkSafe, namely the underground tragedy at Pike River, it is bizarre that –  like the Minister –  road cones are the first thing our minds go to.

It was music to my ears to hear her question “are the rules and expectations proportionate to the actual risks, and when should common sense prevail?”

We will be proactively taking part in this consultation.

A key point we will be pushing is that as much as there is confusion and inconsistency in the application of managing risks, an even bigger concern for us are the difficulties caused by the actions and practices of other parties in the supply chain, and how the consequences of those impact on the working conditions of transport operators.

The other big issue of interest was Transport Minister Simeon Brown’s announcement that the Coalition Government has, via the Ministry of Transport, begun consulting on a proposal to reverse Labour’s blanket speed limit reductions by 1 July 2025.

Over the last 12 months, we’ve advocated hard about having a world of “and”. As much as we don’t want to see anyone harmed, in our view we must take into consideration a multitude of issues like safety AND productivity AND environmental impacts AND the views of road users and local communities.

And finally for those that have been highly critical of the Fast Track Approvals, I’d urge them to consider these quotes from the Ministry for the Environment’s Supplementary Analysis Report on the Fast Track Approvals Bill.

The report, published in March, said of the current consenting process: “The process for seeking approvals for major projects in New Zealand are slow, costly and complex. The approval processes place insufficient value on the positive economic and social benefits of development …The result is excess cost and a stifling of development.”

“The Infrastructure Commission/Te Waihanga estimates that current consenting processes costs infrastructure projects $1.29 billion every year, and the time taken to get a resource consent for key projects has nearly doubled within a five-year period.”

Sure, the first cut of the Act may not have been perfect, but that doesn’t take away the fact that the current RMA process isn’t delivering what it should, so something needs to change.

– By Dom Kalasih, interim chief executive, Ia Ara Aotearoa Transporting New Zealand