Mustn’t push back

I have always been somewhat perplexed why New Zealand adopted a small, flightless, blind, solitary, largely bad-tempered bird as its national symbol despite being home to the largest eagle on record. People I’ve discussed it with cite the fact the kiwi is still with us as the primary reason, as opposed to the Haast’s eagle, which is not. Up until now, my argument has been that it would have been a way of posthumously honouring a bird we’ve rendered extinct through our actions (as we’re inclined to do).

But looking around now, it’s probably fitting. Karma even? We have the kiwi as our bird rather than an apex predator able to use the bald eagle’s talons as a toothpick – figuratively speaking.

Why? Simply put, the ever-increasing paralysis, overthinking, ineptitude, and deception that encroaches further into our lives daily and appears to go unchallenged.

Let’s not even go near Transmission Gully – there’s just not enough paper. The project has chalked up an almost half-billiondollar blowout, rework, and according to the media last week, the government is now not sure how the original sums were done. It’ll keep lawyers busy for decades. No, let’s scale it down a tad. One of the supreme examples of real-life 2021 New Zealand has to be the upgrades to SH2 between Waihi and Tauranga in the western Bay of Plenty. It’s narrow, rough, multi-textured, uneven surface has had millions spent on it over what is becoming an interminable length of time only to end up a widened, rough, multi-textured, uneven surface – with side barriers and cat’s eyes of course. None of the hideous narrow bridges on the route has been replaced, and from what I can see, only one additional slow-vehicle lane has been added to date, starting halfway up the steepest hill on the corridor just East of Waihi. What use starting it halfway up is, loses me to be frank. And after all the improvements are complete, it appears the speed limit is being reduced permanently on the Katikati-to-Tauranga leg, down from 100kph and then 90kph for the last few kilometres, to a blanket 80kph, rendering the passing lanes on that stretch useless. If the intention was to reduce speed, why spend all that money making it wider? It’s like a double amputee getting two new legs and the local DHB setting fire to their car and e-bike just after.

Then, there’s the SH1 Wairakei to SH5 Napier/Taupo Road intersection, one of the newer, wider sections of SH1, bizarrely compromised for a year now with all manner of reconstruction while the SH5 Napier/Taupo Road and SH2 Napier to Wairoa remain to workplace safety what Donald Trump is to a harmonious United States. And do we even start on the SH60 Takaka Hill road? It has just rolled through its fourth summer of compromise. At what point do carriers in the area demand a rebate on the RUCs for almost half a decade of disruption and significantly increased R&M brought about by loaded trucks stopping and starting on a severe incline multiple times a day? A solitary road link to a significant tourism, farming, quarrying and commercial-fishing region has seen little urgency in its rehabilitation since being severely compromised by Cyclone Gita in February 2018.

Leaving the road-builders to muddle on… It’s absurd to think about the amount of industry representation we have, yet we’re still crippled by a plethora of ludicrous rules and issues. Take drivinghours, legislation that actually promotes the driving of heavy trucks while tired. What about driver/truck facilities and hours in and around the Cook Strait ferries; the ongoing debacle that is transport engineering certification – it just goes on.

Then there’s the day-today reality of unchallenged occupational inertia. Here’s another example of 2021 New Zealand that happened just last week. A truck driver delivering to a site was asked about his choice of PPE while driving; the enquirer wanting to know why he hadn’t driven the 1000-odd kilometres to the delivery point in full body cover and heavy boots. The driver then had to undergo a full drug, alcohol, and fitfor- work test only to find the consignee unable to unload him for three and half hours. Maybe concentrating on organising their own operation would have been the more productive fit-for-work option?

What started off this editorial was a discussion I had with an experienced driver some time back who was beyond punch-drunk, utterly resolved to continual unchallenged adjustment.

“It is what it is,” he said.
“Nothing’s improving; nothing gets done. The job’s getting harder; there’s more resistance at customer sites all the time, the roads are a workplace and they’re atrocious – dangerous – and no one’s batting for us. No one’s pushing back. It’s all very well celebrating the industry and travelling the length of the country chasing media exposure, but someone also has to do the dirty work for us. Why weren’t the amenities open from the minute lock-down was announced last year? Seems obvious to me. All these associations and we had nothing. I’ll just keep on going until I’ve had enough and can’t do any more, and then I’ll just park it.”

His is a sentiment not hard to find.