Taking time to focus on the positives
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