Forced change undemocratic

It has been a busy couple of weeks for the Road Transport Forum (RTF) as we work to keep up with the Government’s short consultation timeframes on major changes that will impact the road freight transport industry.

Even though we are a small organisation, we believe it is essential to keep up our democratic right to have a say on law, rule, regulation and policy changes that impact road freight operators.

This can involve conversations with Government Ministers and their officials in the government departments, written submissions (which go on our website), and appearing before Parliamentary select committees to have our say.

As the Government grapples with reducing emissions and decarbonising transport, as well as the infrastructure to facilitate that, there are a lot of documents we need to comment on.

Possibly the greatest existential threat to our industry sits in the 154 pages of Hīkina te Kohupara – Kia mauri ora ai te iwi Transport Emissions: Pathways to Net Zero by 2050. This is a Green Paper from by Ministry of Transport Te Manatū Waka (MoT). It suggests Government intervention in the supply chain to shift freight movement to their preferred modes – rail and coastal shipping – under the guise of a more efficient supply chain, leading to lower emissions.

What this means is the Government manipulating the market and removing choice.

We believe the Government is in no position to dictate how and when individuals and businesses choose to move their freight and household goods. Government officials do not have the expertise to examine payload efficiencies, nor should they be interfering in normal market forces that will inherently drive efficiencies.

We are an export driven economy and cannot afford to have freight costs forced up by the Government to price us off the international market.

Our industry would be looking at arbitrary, meaningless target setting, and implementing such control over transport operations involves draconian regulatory interventions.

This is a step back in time when we should be looking for smart, future solutions. It is increasingly frustrating that the Government would prefer to tinker with niche products and develop ideas that cannot be substantiated by evidence and good cost-benefit analyses, rather than talk to an informed industry that could offer tangible solutions for right now.

We are dealing with fundamentally flawed policy idealisms in the search for an unobtainable nirvana. The first step in reaching this nirvana would be to get the basic infrastructure right – roads, energy supply, and water. You only need to look at the number of groups and organisations that have been set up by Government to look at this to know infrastructure is a problem.

Nowhere is that more evident than in the plans of Let’s Get Wellington Moving.

We look at artist impressions of a Golden Mile without cars. Lambton Quay, presumably boosted by global warming to create the appropriate climate, has people sitting in cafes, cycling and walking – buses will be able to travel through but not cars or trucks.

Last Friday, a sewage spill covered part of Lambton Quay and ran into a stormwater drain. It smelled bad and covered a footpath. How nice would it be to cycle and walk through that, or sit sipping your coffee al fresco? It was Covid Level 2 and not very nice weather, so there was no one much around that day.

It was reported on Stuff at the time that Wellington’s wastewater pipes have an average age of 51 years, the second oldest of any city in New Zealand. Thirty-three percent of wastewater pipes in Wellington are in poor or very poor condition.

Next thing you know, there will be a spreadsheet where we are allocated times our households can use the toilet.

A lot of the solutions being put forward to meet emissions reductions are superficial window dressing and “green washing”. They don’t stack up to proper analysis.

There needs to be a reality check on the policy writers in both central and local government about just how their utopia is going to actually function and what it will cost ordinary people and businesses that drive the economy.

We would suggest there is no point in decorating the house before you’ve finished building it. And if you don’t build it to last, all you get are costs and headaches.

Next week we will share our submission on Infrastructure for a Better Future.

– Nick Leggett, CEO, Road Transport Forum


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