THE LAST MILE – We‘re a weird mob

6 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineDecember 4, 2020

Some may remember the 1966 movie They‘re a weird mob, the tale of an Italian immigrant in Australia trying understand the Australian way of life. I wonder if a person from overseas would have similar thoughts if they found themselves in New Zealand today – arriving at the same conclusion, that we‘re certainly a weird mob. Let‘s take the recent revelation that the Speaker of Parliament spent more than $500,000 of our money building a children‘s playground in the grounds of Parliament. How many school lunches or much-needed cancer treatments could that have bought? It‘s not like the inhabitants of the building in whose grounds the playground sits are bored and need something to occupy their mind, they seem quite adept at being able to occupy themselves with well-established games. Pass the parcel seems to be the favourite right now, or their own version of Snakes and Ladders, with lots of ladders and few snakes. From the dump of Covid-19 papers, we now know the tracking system was flawed because there were two sets of data collected and they could not talk to each other. How come, with all the IT people who would have been involved, nobody thought it important to ensure the collected data was linked? After browsing through some of the summaries of these and other related documents, one cannot help but arrive at the conclusion that perhaps the doctors the decision makers were influenced by were of the spin type, not the medical. Then there is the water debacle in Auckland. How is it possible that New Zealand‘s largest city can be on the verge of running out of water because a Hamilton bureaucrat is following a process? And who came up with the process – another bureaucrat no doubt.

We also learn that Auckland Watercare is going to spend more than $50 million dollars to recommission a dam and its treatment plant that in 2005 was thought to be no longer needed from a supply point of view. Did those who manage Auckland‘s water supply not learn anything from the 1994 drought? It was once said if you got a job in government, be it national or local, it was a job for life. I thought this concept was long gone, but perhaps it is still alive and well after all. In a NZ Herald report on 3 March 2020 we learn that after spending more than $6 million restoring the Napier to Wairoa rail line, only three trains have used the line since it opened in 2018. Further south, Wellington is consulting on reducing road speed limits in the CBD, the reasoning being to make the CBD more pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly. I am not sure who comes up with these ideas, but perhaps if they bothered to look they would find most pedestrians are around during the day, when the traffic congestion means vehicle speed is not much more than what they are proposing to mandate now. Then, a few days after proposing to reduce the speed limits, the same mob released another consultation document that would ban private cars from many of the streets where speed limits would be reduced. As any right-thinking person knows, speed limits are only effective if you have enforcement, so does reducing of speed limits in Wellington, and other cities as well, signal more speed cameras perhaps? Possibly run by private contractors as the Land Transport (NZTA) Legislation Amendment Bill appears to allow.

Then we had the announcement of two new, long overdue purpose-built Cook Strait ferries. That both will be able to accommodate rail wagons is a positive, but didn‘t we learn anything from the Kaikoura earthquake and how vulnerable the rail line from Picton to Christchurch is? Didn‘t we learn how valuable trucks were in keeping the South Island supplied by being able to take the alternative route via the Wairau Valley, and Lewis Pass? Where is the funding to improve this road so it is more suitable for trucks when SH1 is again unusable? Earlier this century when I first had some involvement in making decisions centred around legislation, I was directed to a document produced by Crown Law, The judge over your shoulder. The principle of this was that in most cases a decision made by a person exercising a statutory authority is reviewable by a higher authority, normally the courts. I wonder if today‘s crop of bureaucrats have been directed to this document and its implications as I was? Taking this one step futher. We, as taxpayers of New Zealand, must hold every bureaucrat who influences the way we live, or how we go about our business, accountable for the decisions they make. As I suggested earlier, we are certainly a weird mob if we continue to allow bureaucrats to influence our lives and livelihoods with little or no accountability for what they do.