Has Michael Wood been handed three poisoned chalices by the Prime Minister?

By Don Good, Waikato Chamber CEO

As the immigration Minister he controls a complex, sprawling, humanitarian portfolio. Balancing the requirements of the various factions within the Labour Party and a disgruntled business sector crying out for staff, will require a great deal of time, political capital and perseverance.

Being the Minister for Auckland will take a lot of time and energy. Auckland has been neglected by Wellington even before the floods. There are so many issues. Choosing which ones to tackle in the meagre nine months until the election is the key.

Transport in Auckland and across New Zealand is on the verge of becoming a clustermuckup. As Minister he has a huge amount to deliver on.

One of the best attempts I have read by someone trying to cover the transport field is this one by Andrea Vance.

She does not pull her punches. It is a checklist of “Transport things this country needs Minister Wood to fix”. If Michael can solve them all he deserves all the accolades. As Andrea quite rightly points out many are not of his making, but they are now his to solve, and his Ministry of Transport does not have a glowing track record of delivering results at present.

We are interested in your feedback on the list of issues that Andrea raises. We do not want a recap of history but your solutions to these problems in a non-partisan/political response. Please email us.

Whilst Auckland is a large thorny issue in its own right, the weather events of the past few weeks have simply added big problems on top of the list Mayor Brown has been elected to solve.

From a purely selfish regional standpoint we would ask Minister Wood to let Mayor Brown have the chequebook and get on with it whilst the Minister focuses on remediating the transport issues of the other regions in New Zealand that got a pounding and remain outstanding.

Take but one example – the arterial routes in and out of the Coromandel that have been cut off.

Summer customers are the region’s commercial lifeline. Business has dried up as kiwis and overseas tourists alike have cancelled their visits. With Covid, a wet summer, and now the roads, the failure of some companies before winter is on the cards.

So, an early test of Minister Wood’s control over Waka Kotahi is before him.

After employing 88 PR staff with over 60 on $100k-plus salaries the early media response was good but short on detail as you would expect. If you were sitting in the CEO’s seat you may be wishing that you had employed 88 roading engineers, project managers, soil specialists and pothole fixers rather than speech writers.

Andrea Vance itemises the projects Waka Kotahi has failed on. They have until October to prove they and their Minister can deliver.

But let’s be fair. We have yet to hear from the opposition parties on what they will do to fix our roading network. It is easy to criticise, far more difficult to deliver practical results.

National transport spokesperson Simeon Brown and his boss Christopher Luxon, along with Act’s David Seymour and the Green’s James Shaw need to front up and tell us in detail what they and their party will do and how their solutions will be better than those of the current team.

On another note. We were surprised Auckland University lecturer chose to criticise the expertise we have in New Zealand for this sort of work. Some of our local contractors have had generations of working both on the Coromandel and around the world on road slips. Armchair academics were quick to comment to the media without eyeballing the monster slip on the Kopu Hikuai Road.

It was good to see Thames-Coromandel Mayor Len Salt’s leadership in this crisis. He quickly hosted Civil Defence Minister Kieran McAnulty and representatives from Waka Kotahi and the National Emergency Management Agency. Business on the Coromandel Peninsula is looking for leadership and to date Mayor Salt has delivered regular and concise communications and action.

To be fair, and in a smart move, David Speirs the Waikato Regional Director from Waka Kotahi quickly hauled in several of the most experienced local contractors with long involvement in remediating slips on the Coromandel to give their views on both short and long term solutions for the road. Let’s hope the Minister of Finance opens his cheque book and lets the locals get on with the job.

We look forward to a result in the next few weeks. Businesses on the Coromandel would rather the solution was in days if not hours. This is not a time for lengthy reports. The enquiries can come later. For many companies and families their summer is almost over.


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