Tak­ing time to fo­cus on the pos­i­tives

New Zealand Truck & Driver - - Feature - By Road Trans­port As­so­ci­a­tion NZ com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager David Kil­lick

THE TRANS­PORT IN­DUS­TRY AND THE WHOLE ECON­OMY ARE fac­ing mas­sive chal­lenges. Be­fore fo­cus­ing on them, I think it’s worth paus­ing for a mo­ment to ac­knowl­edge how well New Zealand has done.

It could have been so much worse: Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda

Ardern’s call to “go early and go hard” was the right one. The tough Level 4 lock­down con­di­tions – tougher than those in many coun­tries – suc­ceeded in flat­ten­ing the curve and elim­i­nat­ing COVID-19…. down to just a hand­ful of cases af­ter the first month.

Our health ser­vices could have been over­whelmed had the virus been al­lowed to spread un­con­tained. That’s what hap­pened in the United States, where Pres­i­dent Trump at first down­played the threat and said it would just go away – and ev­ery­thing was un­der con­trol. The US death toll is hor­ren­dous – worse than the to­tal num­ber of peo­ple killed dur­ing the Viet­nam war.

Now, pro­test­ers in the US are call­ing for lock­down mea­sures to be eased, even though the virus is still rag­ing. That risks a sec­ond deadly wave of in­fec­tions.

Yes, the econ­omy mat­ters but peo­ple’s lives come first.

Without peo­ple, or with large num­bers of the pop­u­la­tion sick and hos­pi­talised, there wouldn’t be an econ­omy. The road trans­port in­dus­try in the US, as well as through­out Europe and the UK, has been dealt a ham­mer blow and is strug­gling. One of the main prob­lems is re­ported to be keep­ing op­er­a­tors safe from the virus.

Sound lead­er­ship, heed­ing the sci­en­tists and med­i­cal ex­perts, bring­ing in tough nec­es­sary mea­sures, and get­ting pub­lic buy-in, have made a crit­i­cal dif­fer­ence in NZ.

One pleas­ing out­come was the un­prece­dented level of co­op­er­a­tion and the sus­pen­sion, at least for a short pe­riod, of pol­i­tics as usual. Our team of five mil­lion worked to­gether. We all want a good out­come.

That’s not to let the Gov­ern­ment off the hook. Far from it: The need for in­creased spend­ing on in­fra­struc­ture, espe­cially roads, is now more com­pelling than ever. It’s es­sen­tial to ex­pand our state high­way net­work and bring it up to First World stan­dards.

An­other pos­i­tive has been the recog­ni­tion of the huge and vi­tal role that road trans­port op­er­a­tors play in keep­ing the econ­omy run­ning. Even as the Level 4 lock­down kicked in, op­er­a­tors were gear­ing up to hit the road, car­ry­ing es­sen­tial sup­plies to those who needed it most.

For some, the re­stric­tions proved very tough un­til they were eased to al­low the move­ment of non-es­sen­tial goods. Some op­er­a­tors will still strug­gle. They need on­go­ing sup­port.

The econ­omy will cer­tainly be very dif­fer­ent. We will still de­pend on ex­ports. Per­haps we will go back to man­u­fac­tur­ing more prod­ucts in NZ.

For those forced to stay at home in their bub­ble, life has been dif­fer­ent. But for most, not too dif­fi­cult. Those of us in Christchur­ch who went through the earth­quakes are used to dis­rup­tion.

Julie Berry, of Safe Busi­ness So­lu­tions, wrote: “Re­mem­ber, our grand­par­ents were called to war; we are be­ing called to sit on the sofa and watch movies. We can do this!”

The lock­down also proved that many peo­ple could work from home. The dropoff in traf­fic early on was a wel­come re­lief for na­ture and made it a lot eas­ier for peo­ple to get out walk­ing or bik­ing around their neigh­bour­hoods. Truck driv­ers wel­comed the change, prompt­ing a warn­ing to stay alert with so few ve­hi­cles about. What a re­lief not to have to watch out for ag­gres­sive and im­pa­tient mo­torists!

Once re­stric­tions eased, traf­fic lev­els were back up to their pre­vi­ous lev­els. There has been a call for more spend­ing on cy­cling in­fra­struc­ture to cut the num­bers of cars on the roads.

To me, free­ing roads up for the vi­tal truck­ing op­er­a­tors who con­trib­ute to the econ­omy for the good of all NZers, makes sense.

What­ever your view on all of th­ese is­sues, the Road Trans­port As­so­ci­a­tion will con­tinue to lis­ten and make your voice heard. T&D

Trucks head into Christchur­ch from a largely empty south­ern mo­tor­way early in the Level 4 lock­down

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