Reflections on a difficult year

December 21, 2021 8:19 am

CEO Nick Leggett reviews the year and hopes for a better 2022.

As Christmas approaches, I’ve made my list of things I’d like to see out 2021, which hasn’t been a great year, and welcome in 2022, which I choose to believe will be better.

You won’t be surprised to know the opening of Transmission Gully was high on the list, as it has been for a few Christmases now (I’m not going to count). That will be crossed off and put on next year’s list, again.

It is disappointing that those of us heading in and out of Wellington this summer once more will have to endure long, hot, thirsty waits in traffic queues, many kilometres long.

I toured the Transmission Gully road this year and was excited by what I saw. This road is going to be a great asset and I’m very keen to see it up and running as a vital part of our roading network.

I don’t think we can keep blaming Covid-19 for this one and I hope if its opening is delayed too much longer, there will be some serious scrutiny around the management of this project.

If the Government can’t manage big infrastructure projects from sod turning to completion, we have a problem because we need a lot more, big infrastructure builds to get underway.

Also on my list is road repairs – that they get done so that the Government can’t keep using the unsafe state of the roads as a “reason” for lowering all the speed limits. In the trucking industry we provide a fair chunk of change to the road fund, and we are pretty upset to see road money siphoned off into the bottomless pit that is rail.

As we will prove in a report which we will release early next year, rail is not a serious contender for any significant volume of the freight task. There are many good reasons why customers chose to send their goods via road, not rail – speed, efficiency and door-to-door being some of them.

Our big concern about the state of the roads is safety and if you read my blogs regularly, you will note I have highlighted this a lot recently. The Covid-19 response that has seen our major city of Auckland locked up for more than 120 days is going to have a big impact on our roads over Christmas and the summer holidays.

This week, Auckland was set free. While normally they may be the best of drivers – although stats would suggest otherwise – they haven’t driven for a long time and they are desperate to get out of town.

Leaving New Zealand is nigh on impossible, unless you plan to leave for good, so New Zealanders will be travelling around the country, in cars, for their holidays. More traffic on the roads, people angry and agitated, stress, heat, delays – it’s all a bit of a recipe for disaster.

Top of my list is for there to be no more people added to this year’s road toll, which stands at 299 to date, and for all our truck drivers to be seated at the Christmas table with their families.

Which brings us to the Police, who have to be top of Santa’s list for some good gifts. They have handled road borders, not really their core work but incredibly resource heavy, like real troupers. They’ve been out on those Auckland road borders for more than 120 days, 24/7, in all kinds of weather, dealing with all kinds of people. When we’ve approached them with issues, they’ve had nothing but a positive, “let’s solve this” attitude.

We can only imagine how they feel about having to shift resources to the new Northland borders. Surely it would be better for resources to go into fixing whatever is stopping the people of Northland following the rest of New Zealand and getting vaccinated, rather than trying to keep the rest of New Zealand out of Northland? It is hard to see the Northland road border as anything other than a political move by people who have had political careers they may be looking to revive.

This has been a tough year but the trucking industry has done itself proud by turning up every day and getting on with the job, sometimes in unprecedented circumstances. The people in our industry really are the wheels that keep the economy moving, in good times and bad.

I’m optimistic that 2022 will be a better year. Even if there are more variants of Covid-19 to come, we’ve got high rates of vaccination, there are treatments for those who are unwell, we know more, and we should be able to get on and get back to a life of some kind of normality.

I really hope the Government sees some sense and opens the border early in the year. At some point, “caution” becomes crippling and we have to revive our reputation as a little country that punches above its weight when it comes to ingenuity and bravery.

This is my final blog of the year and so I want to wish everyone good cheer – time with family and friends, letting go of the stresses and worries, and if all else fails, stick to what our industry is so well known for – keep calm and carry on.

– Nick Leggett, CEO, Ia Ara Aotearoa Transporting New Zealand