Serious considerations

In Newsletter Editorial5 MinutesBy Gavin MyersJune 30, 2023

It’s a changing world. That much was abundantly clear at the Transporting New Zealand conference, held over the past two days (28 and 29 June) at the Lower Hutt Events Centre. The conference theme – A changing world – was right on the money.

It being an election year, it was fitting the conference was held on the doorstep of New Zealand’s capital city. While there were the usual industry-related topics of discussion around regulation, environmental considerations, workplace relations, labour issues and recruitment and training, the core focus for the conference this year was the upcoming election on 14 October.

Representatives from four of the five current parliamentary parties (Te Paati Māori was absent, but New Zealand First was present) gave delegates their best transport-related pitch before engaging in a unexpectedly civilised panel discussion – mostly.

It was almost surprising how much some of them aligned on specific issues – the need to support education and sector skills; the dire situation around road maintenance, capacity and resilience; and the need to shift the focus from projects like Auckland Light Rail and Get Wellington Moving in favour of wider-reaching infrastructure projects.

At the same time, it was almost humorous how they bickered on others – who takes credit for what roading projects, if we have the right approach to road safety, and if we’ve taken the right path to decarbonisation.

For now, I’ll leave it to you to guess who aligned on what and bickered with whom. The full, juicy report will run in the August issue of New Zealand Trucking.

While one can never be quite sure if the messages politicians convey to the audience of the day are posturing, appeasement or both, the hard truth of economics can generally be relied on for a solid reality check. As ever, that came courtesy of economist Cameron Bagrie – and this year, he did not disappoint. His basic message; brace yourself.

“The next two to three years will provide a wake-up call for New Zealand in general. A sense of self-entitlement has strayed in over the last few years – tougher times ahead mean you’ll have to stiffen your resolve. Ideology is being checked by the economic reality of the cost of living and pressure on margins. Do we have substance across the political spectrum to do what’s necessary?

“We will have to go back to basics and execute the basics. New Zealand has the right stuff, but our fundamentals need a recheck to get us back in the right lane. Charting a path for the next five years is not difficult.”

As we head into the election, Cameron pushed the point of bringing New Zealand together again. “One of the biggest social challenges New Zealand faces is division. A divided society is economically unhealthy. Division means people talk about themselves, and that comes through in stats like crime. We need leaders who can chart a path,” he reiterated.

The trucking industry didn’t escape Cameron’s constructive criticism either: “What we’ve seen is Game Theory at work; people thinking through a self-interest lens when things get tough, not group interest. Put the egos aside – one team, one dream. Industry associations could have a strong role in shaping where the country goes in the next few years. You need to provide solutions to government, but government likes to deal with united voices.”

No doubt, most in the industry will agree.

Look out for a complete series of reports from the conference in New Zealand Trucking magazine, beginning with the August 2023 issue, where we’ll take a deep dive into these topics and more.

Take care out there,

Gavin Myers