The train is rapidly approaching

In The Last Mile6 MinutesBy The Accidental TruckerOctober 27, 2021

Many of us were surprised with the government’s “rebalancing” of planned roading upgrades, but should we have been? The current government does not have a good track record of sticking to its word; instead, it governs by ideology and, of course, has one eye on the 2023 election.

Did we not learn from the events of the 1930s, 40s and 50s when ideologies took hold in Europe, the Mediterranean, the Soviet Union, and Asia? During this era, people’s rights were gradually extinguished. The population was told only what the government decided it needed to know, and often this information was disguised as public enlightenment and was headed by a charismatic leader. The government knew best, and those that questioned it were quickly silenced one way or another. In some areas, there were instances of anarchy, with open defiance of the law, that while not openly condoned, went unpunished. Thank goodness New Zealand has not sunk to the levels we saw in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, but recent events suggest we could be on the slippery slope already.

The breaking through of police barriers and taking over of one lane on the Auckland Harbour Bridge by a group of cyclists and walkers with little or no penalties suggests that this government is very much in tune with those that share its ideological thinking and blow the rest of us. Perhaps it is no coincidence that within a few days, the government announced a multimillion-dollar project to build a dedicated walking and cycling bridge adjacent to the current vehicle one?

Of course, only a fool would believe that this project suddenly materialised in just a few days; governments and the bureaucrats that serve them are incapable of making decisions that quickly, so somewhere in the bowels of power, somebody had been working on this for a while and it was all ready to go – the events on the bridge providing the ideal opportunity. Since then, the group has said they believe it would be possible to close off one lane of the bridge to provide a trial for when the new bridge will be built. They claim that closing one lane will do little to increase the congestion we see daily. The disturbing thing is that this approach appears to have some support from officials.

We saw the canning of the desperately needed upgrade to Mill Road in Auckland but are assured by the minister that all will be well by concentrating efforts on cycling, walking and public transport. This comes at a time when in May, more than 3400 public transport services in Wellington were cancelled. And the reason cited for this? A shortage of drivers.

While it was good to see that the Melling interchange in Wellington was not canned, its projected cost has almost doubled in a year. Covid-19 is cited as the cause of this.

A good thing about New Zealand is the ability of its citizens to question the decision-makers using the Official Information Act. Sadly, even this is becoming a mechanism for the government to use its spin to manipulate what it tells us. In an article published on Stuff on 6 June, senior journalist Andrea Vance described her recent experiences with getting information under this act. She says that it is now very difficult for journalists to get the heart and truth of a story, adding “we are up against an army of well-paid spin doctors”.

She gives examples of this: each minister has at least two press secretaries, the prime minister has four. MBIE had 48 PR staff, and now it has 64. NZTA has 72, up from 26 five years ago. This writer can attest to this misuse of the intent of the act.

Meanwhile, our nurses have had to take industrial action to improve working conditions – apparently, there is no money to give them a pay rise. Wellington Hospital has again asked for winter pyjamas for child patients, and Starship is still seeking donations to complete its children’s intensive care unit.

While all of this is going on, our industry carries on doing what it does best under all conditions, despite the repeated attacks on it. It was interesting, though, to read yet another comment from a representative of one of the industry associations that the industry must speak with a single voice. To do this, we must look towards the future and stop looking back to the past.

The sentiments might be okay, but the past is where we came from and holds many lessons for us if only we are prepared to look. Only by looking into the past can we prevent the same mistakes from repeating in the future. After all, we don’t want to be hit by the proverbial train clearly coming towards us.

The Accidental Trucker