Road Transport Forum News

 
New Government has a big job ahead of it

New Government has a big job ahead of it

Road Transport Forum News

 December 2020    RTF News

Having the election done and dusted is definitely something of a relief after what was an extraordinarily-long grind of a campaign. 

Of course, the four-week postponement due to COVID-19 and the return of Auckland to level 3 dragged things out somewhat, yet there was always a sense that the result was never really in doubt.

Jacinda Ardern was flying high due to the general public’s response to her handling of COVID-19….and the National Party was in complete disarray, meaning the only real interest lay in whether or not Labour would be able to govern alone. 

We can all be thankful that the media’s fascination with Billy Te Kahika and the wild-eyed conspiracy-theorists at Advance New Zealand didn’t translate into any real movement at the polling booth.

The new Labour Government, while still basking in the triumph of its historic victory, has a massive task ahead of it. Day-to-day life for many of us may seem fairly normal at level 1, but the world is still in the midst of a crisis – both healthwise and economic. NZ is about to feel the full impact of a global economic downturn.

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Having the election done and dusted is definitely something of a relief after what was an extraordinarily-long grind of a campaign. 
Of course, the four-week postponement due to COVID-19 and the return of Auckland to level 3 dragged things out somewhat, yet there was always a sense that the result was never really in doubt.
Jacinda Ardern was flying high due to the general public’s response to her handling of COVID-19….and the National Party was in complete disarray, meaning the only real interest lay in whether or not Labour would be able to govern alone. 
We can all be thankful that the media’s fascination with Billy Te Kahika and the wild-eyed conspiracy-theorists at Advance New Zealand didn’t translate into any real movement at the polling booth.
The new Labour Government, while still basking in the triumph of its historic victory, has a massive task ahead of it. Day-to-day life for many of us may seem fairly normal at level 1, but the world is still in the midst of a crisis – both healthwise and economic. NZ is about to feel the full impact of a global economic downturn.
The next three years could be some of the most challenging economic conditions faced for generations. With no international tourists, few international workers, international markets that are contracting and mounting government debt, there is no doubt that the finance minister will have his work cut out to provide the right environment for recovery.
For the freight sector, which is naturally concerned with the health of the global supply chain, there are going to be problems as imports and exports become further restricted. It is an issue that has so far flown under the radar, but it deserves the Government’s immediate attention. 
Labour will also need to do a better job of implementing policy that supports NZ business, particularly the thousands of small businesses that are the backbone of our economy. 
Labour’s agenda when it comes to employment legislation is of significant concern. The proposal to do away with the owner-driver or contractor-driver model will make it harder for our industry and shows little understanding of how the supply chain works. A change to the relationship between owner-drivers and principals will have unintended consequences that will flow down to exporters, consumer markets and the country’s overall economic performance.
There is also concern at the implementation of Fair Pay Agreements (national awards) that will further reduce flexibility within the sector and an increase in the minimum wage that will lump additional costs on already marginal businesses. 
Investment in infrastructure remains critical. We can’t solve our infrastructure deficit in three years, but progress does need to be made on both roading and public transport projects that will improve the ability of trucking operators to go about their work safely and efficiently. 
The East-West Link in Auckland, Christchurch Southern Motorway and State Highway One from Wellington to Levin must be priority projects – and the significant safety problems with the Napier to Taupo Highway must also be addressed. 
When it comes to safety the Land Transport (Drug Driving) Amendment Bill that will introduce roadside saliva testing for drug impairment must be passed and testing rolled out across the country as soon as is practical.
I am particularly looking forward to the opportunity to work alongside the Government to build our industry’s future workforce capability and supply through the Te ara ki tua Road to Success traineeship programme. The Government was very supportive of this project during the last term and we expect that to continue.
There are hard times ahead and NZers have entrusted this Government to help get us through it. We can only hope that the way they govern reflects that and they are not tempted by hard-left fringe elements that don’t really understand how our economy works.
Moving off politics, I was lucky enough recently to get the chance to celebrate the heroism one of the many outstanding drivers in our industry, in a small ceremony for the annual winner of the Castrol Truck Driver Hero Award.
Deane Rodgers, who drives for Summerland Express Freight, was earlier this year driving his truck and trailer loaded with infant formula through South Canterbury when he spotted smoke coming from the trailer. 
Knowing just how dry the surrounding countryside and farmland was and the danger that strong winds posed in spreading a fire, Deane (who knows the area well) made the decision to keep driving until he reached the Makikihi Country Hotel, which he knew had space to park his by-now flaming truck.
During what must have been an extremely stressful five kilometre drive he called ahead and prepared the fire brigade and ignored the desperate attempts of other motorists to get him to pull over.
Deane’s selfless quick thinking and bravery avoided what would have been a far bigger incident – one that could have resulted in significant loss of crops and damage to farms as well as major disruptions to the state highway. 
Driving 5kms with a burning truck takes some serious nerve and is a real testament to Deane’s professionalism and his 33 years of experience as a truck driver. 
I really enjoyed spending the evening with Deane, his partner Karen, and the Summerland team who were there to recognise him. It was another reminder of what incredible people we have in our industry and it is important that we continue to recognise that.  

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