Seeking solutions for problems and challenges

In News4 MinutesBy Dom KalasihJanuary 26, 2024

Wellington is full of clever people who want to change the world and earn a seat at the Table of Powerbrokers, where decisions are made and, more importantly, department budgets are allocated.

It is good there is a bunch of well-meaning people who want to use our tax money to solve the problems of the world.

I find there are three age-old challenges with the problems we face. First, there are too many problems to solve at any given time. Second, as much as we would like to fix genuine problems, sometimes there simply aren’t viable solutions to solve them. Third, sometimes we see ‘solutions’ being punted that are looking for ‘problems’ to solve.

Invariably, solutions come at a price – and the money for that price often comes from industry.

Transporting New Zealand has just sent a submission to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) on the 2024/25 Energy Levies Proposal.

The proposal we’re interested in lies with the Petroleum or Engine Fuel Monitoring (PEFM) bit of the levies to support freight decarbonisation and its two work programmes, the Low Emission Transport Fund (LETF) and the Low Emissions Transport Information Provision Programme.

Now, we are all for cutting carbon emissions, as our Green Compact plan to decarbonise road transport by 2050 shows. We have been supporters of the work done with the PEFM levy and continue to do so because decarbonisation is a real problem. Innovation and adoption, particularly with new technologies, often needs a leg up.

However, there comes a time when genuine solutions need to wash their own face. I think we’re seeing this in the light vehicle space, and therefore we believe there should be a shift in the LETF investment.

Despite some serious commitment and pretty interesting experimenting going on, our heavy transport sector is very much a technology taker, rather than a technology innovator. Currently, there simply don’t appear to be off-the-shelf feasible and viable solutions available in the heavy end of town. Therefore, we are recommending more of the LETF be put towards decarbonising our current fleet of heavy road freight vehicles.

When there are viable solutions that allow us to cut our emissions, I don’t doubt we will use them. In fact, when new fuel sources and drive trains are developed, it would be nice to see our PEFM levies fall. That isn’t a given in Wellington, but it should be!

Decarbonisation in the road freight space is a great example of the second challenge with problems, but at least it is a genuine global problem.

Going back to where I started, we do suffer from having too many genuine problems to solve and a risk I see over the next couple of years is the industry getting distracted doing stuff that might feel good but it isn’t really solving those problems. I think that risk can occur at a business level as well.

Sometimes solutions should be the last step in a policy chain, not the first.

We will continue to lobby for the industry, supporting initiatives that remedy real problems that need fixing.

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