Floods emphasise need to work together

July 6, 2021 8:53 am

The RTANZ worked hard to ensure the road network remained open during June’s severe South Island floods, writes Chief Operating Officer Simon Carson.

The shortest day has passed us by just before a short period of wild weather hit parts of the South Island. Hundreds of North Canterbury residents were evacuated from their homes—and further south, hundreds more Ashburton residents were on standby—as  rivers raged across the region, fuelled by a one-in-100-year deluge. 

Priority for RTANZ during crisis events such as this one is to ensure that our transport network either remains open or is reopened after minimal downtime. Engagement with councils as well as Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, Civil Defence, and other authorities is critical. Equally important is the timing of these discussions which are often happening on behalf of members just as the crisis is starting to hit. Clear communication during an event such as this is essential—therefore the association becomes a key player in keeping New Zealand’s supply chains and networks functioning.

The Ashburton river bridge reopened for heavy vehicles after a short period of closure where trucks could use the bridge between 7pm and 7am. The reason for this was due to ongoing monitoring of the surface by Waka Kotahi and contractors where regular visual assessment of damage and potential risk was required during daylight. There are extra challenges with undertaking checks and measures during the hours of darkness, with health and safety of workers playing a significant part of the process.  

The floods coincided with significant stock being moved around the country on Gypsy Day.  Appropriately named because of its traveling connotations, June the first sees thousands of farm managers, contract milkers, and sharemilkers loading cows into stock trucks, or walking them to new farms nearby, and packing up their equipment, families, and belongings. 

So, while road users battled soaked and damaged roads, they also needed to remain vigilant due to extra stock vehicles on the parts of our networks that remained open. Stock movements between farmers and transport operators needed some extra planning to ensure movements went without a hitch, and the flexibility of most farmers contributed to the continuity of transporting animals. Many stock operators said they experienced minimal downtime as they juggled their farm runs around stock availability, open roads, and detours. Damaged infrastructure seems to have had little effect on this sector of industry.

Moving stock moving between regions was another matter with some operators reaching either side of Canterbury and having to park trucks up for a period. RTANZ, FMG, and Fedfarm worked to ensure that animals in transit were able to be temporarily rehomed until such time it was deemed safe to continue with their journeys. On the whole, it was pleasing to see transport businesses quickly adapt to this crisis and carry on with their businesses.

A total of 190 members attended the recent 31st annual NZI South Island Seminar in Twizel, South Canterbury. A key part of the day is the members’ forum where the opportunity is presented to members for industry matters to be brought to the attention of RTANZ executive and present authorities.The association lakes its lead from our members who are represented by individuals elected by members from the regions. If, as an RTANZ member, you feel you have something to say, or have value to add to your region and the industry, I strongly encourage you to put your hand up for inclusion on your executive committee, or the RTANZ board. Please keep an eye out for regional AGM dates and locations.