And I don’t mean Simon Bridges. We are currently governed by a pretty unique collection of politicians and I mean that in the kindest possible way. They are full of grandiose ideas about where to spend billions of dollars we haven’t got, yet none of their ideas seem to come to pass.
Take the madcap proposal to hang a bike track under the clip-on lanes of the Auckland Harbour Bridge. That one predictably went nowhere (but not before they compulsorily bought five Northcote houses to make room for the off-ramp) because there was no way that the engineers could figure out a way to make it structurally safe.
That ludicrous proposal was replaced by one that was even more ridiculous – a free-standing cycle bridge across the harbour, costing upwards of $800 million. Several million had already been wasted on design and consultation work before this was rightly scrapped.
Then there is the slow tram to the airport which remains anchored at the debate stage before they have even worked out what route it’s going to take or how much of it will be underground. This has been on the agenda for five years, absolutely nothing has happened and that’s the way it should stay. Now is not the time to be throwing money at nineteenth century transport technology in response to the 21st century reality that city centres are shrivelling as commerce decentralises. The cost of such a system doesn’t bear thinking about.
This is a Government that couldn’t even get Transmission Gully finished when it was consented and started by the previous National Government, then handed to them on a plate three quarters complete four and a half years ago, whereupon it all started to grind to a halt. Hopefully by the time you’re reading this we will know when it will open, but it will already be two years behind schedule.
And now we come to the mother of all pie-in-the-sky ideas. It’s the NZ Transport Agency’s ‘Road to Zero’ vision. Brainchild of former associate Transport Minister Julie-Anne Genter, it is a dreamland in which we will have zero road deaths or serious injuries by the year 2050.
Not only do they actually believe that this is possible, but they’ve embarked on a TV campaign in a vain attempt to convince the rest of us.
Now I’m all for reducing death and injury on the roads, but let’s put this in perspective. Even if we manage to reduce road deaths by 10 per cent every single year, starting now, the toll in 2050 will be down to 15. That’s clearly impossible, as even if we slow traffic to a crawl (something that’s clearly on the agenda), there’s always going to be the odd drunk who steps in front of a slow moving bus, a carload of delinquents trying to outrun the police, or another head-on crash arising from the failure of our primitive two-lane highway system. Getting the road toll down from the current 320 or so to zero is so far-fetched it’s laughable, and that’s without even mentioning motorcycles.
There’s risk in every human activity, take swimming for instance. Since swimming pools were eradicated from schools, kids couldn’t learn how to swim and as a result there are record drownings every summer. And what about the building industry? Despite the imposition of draconian safety measures, construction workers keep knocking themselves off at a rapid rate.
Why are motorists the only ones expected to achieve a zero death rate by 2050? We await a political decision as to how to build a bridge over these troubled waters. No doubt it will be expensive.