The year that never was

In The Last Mile, March 20226 MinutesBy The Accidental TruckerApril 12, 2022

In 1953, Ewen Montagu published a book titled The Man Who Never Was. In 1956, a film of the same name was released. Many of us will be thinking of 2021 as the year that never was – unfortunately, it was, and we had no choice but to cope as best we could with what it threw at us. But despite everything happening around us, we did learn a lot during the past year. In no order, we discovered:

• In the Minister of Finance’s view of the world, $51 million for design and consultation work for the disbanded cycle and pedestrian bridge across Auckland Harbour is nothing. Tell that to those who run Auckland’s Starship Hospital and are constantly appealing for public donations to support the services they provide. Tell it also to Mark Dunajtschik and Dorothy Spotswood, who donated $50 million to build a new children’s hospital in Wellington.

• During the 2020/21 financial year, government departments and agencies spent close to $930 million on contractors and consultants, much of which can be justified, the government claims, because of the need to build capability within government. For capability, read more bureaucrats. But I guess we should not complain too much because in the 2019/20 financial year, the spend was $968 million. Does this mean, though, that the government and its agencies – those ones that responded to the Official Information Act request that is – acknowledge they don’t have the ability and expertise to do what we taxpayers have been providing money for them to do for years? There is a certain irony about this because many of the people they have been hiring as consultants learnt their craft in the government’s employment and were made redundant or otherwise driven out by ‘efficient’ management.

• The opening date for the Transmission Gully section of SH1 was pushed back again. Not our fault, the government says. The previous National government is to blame because it set up the design and building contract. Pardon me? What has the government’s agency for road building and construction, namely NZTA, been doing to manage the project for the past four years? Where has their oversight of the project been?

• Courtesy of the Prime Minister’s partner, we see that it is possible to deliver houses as promised.

• If you are a cyclist, the principle of user-pays to use our roads does not apply.

• Auckland City Council believes that spending $8 million to build 1km of walking and cycleways is money well spent. In Wellington, they can do it for $1.35 million.

• A new meaning of consultation. It now reads something like this: we will ask your views on what we would like to do and would welcome you telling us but, regardless of what you say, we will do it anyway because we know best.

• NZTA is unhappy with the police’s on-road policing.

• Despite the firearms buyback, which was supposed to remove many firearms from criminals, violent offences involving firearms are increasing.

• The preferred way for dealing with the disgusting condition of our road network is to reduce the speed limit.

• Those in control of the Road Transport Forum felt that changing its name will make it more relevant. Relevant to whom?

• There was a divorce between our major industry representative organisations, turning the clock back some 25 years, with each group now claiming they are the voice of the industry.

• Despite the government’s obsession with reducing fossil fuels, we are now importing more coal than ever before to keep the wheels of industry turning.

Predications for 2022

The voter turnout for the local body elections later this year will be low as usual. Many of those elected/re-elected will not be true representatives of the local population but those wishing to impose their ideology on others.

There will be a series of actions by the government that will upset many, including increasing the cost of many government services. We should not be surprised at this as it is routine for governments to do this sort of thing in the second year of the election cycle to pave the way for bribes and distorted ‘facts’ story-telling in election year.

Despite all those who down cry the transport industry, one thing I am sure will happen in 2022 is whatever is thrown at the industry, you will rise to the challenge as you always have and will continue to supply the services that keep our country going. I am hoping, though, that in the Year of the Tiger the transport industry will flex its muscles to show the government and the anti-truck fraternity just how essential the sector is to the country’s wellbeing and economic survival. Perhaps this year might just show what happens when you upset a tiger. Make the most of 2022, whatever happens.