Private sector logistics expertise needed, now

We have a Covid-19 resurgence plan they said, and for 102 days New Zealanders breathed a sigh of relief and believed them. Even if they didn’t have a plan, 102 days was long enough to develop one, right?

If the past week is anything to go by, if we have been operating under a plan, I’d hate to see what they call chaos.

Sort out the port, they said. Great idea, everyone’s drinking more at the moment, where is that bottle of port I was gifted by a European diplomat one time? No, no, the sea port, you know, the one we don’t like and want to close or move because it makes cycling the waterfront difficult.

But all of the goods we need come through those ports and tens of thousands of workers are on and off the ports 24-7. And the Health Minister has said not to test well people because there’s such a demand on the testing regime; we can’t manage that in 48 hours.

Well we have to completely shut off Auckland, they said, that’s the plan – contain where the outbreak is, maybe throw some red-herrings about how it could have been transmitted like, frozen food, and get lots of uniformed people on the road borders.

But Auckland is responsible for 40 percent of the country’s economy, and food and essential supplies flow into/out/and through it. Closing off Auckland will cost 250 jobs a day. And what happens to Northland – it becomes an island? The food producing part of Auckland straddles the Waikato border – how’s that going to work?

For the trucking industry, instruction by the Government on two borders – sea and the borders containing Auckland under Covid-19 Level 3 response – have been the cause of confusion, concern and disruption to business. After the first half of the year and the total lockdown of the country, businesses are already struggling. They cannot sustain hit after hit when it appears there is no real plan.

It has been a frustrating week. The Government saw sense on the sea ports fairly quickly when it became apparent, they could not meet their own order. The road borders however, have shown how little is known about the flow of the supply chain and how ill equipped the government is to manage logistics.

Government has all the time and all the money. Projects frequently run over time and over budget. There is not the discipline that exists in the private sector where time is money. If people fail in the private sector, they are let go.

Throwing more people at the top and more military on the front line is not the answer. This Government has an aversion to business, but they need the expertise of people who have to bring in money to survive. It sharpens the senses and breeds efficiency.

People in the supply chain, such as those in the trucking industry, understand logistics.

Every day, they plan for people to load trucks and take goods all around New Zealand, within legally set timeframes for the amount of time they are allowed to drive and work.

Being a human chain, there are breakages when a person is sick, has an accident, gets stuck in traffic, etc. That break is pulled out of the rest of the chain, adjustments are made, and the flow continues. Food gets delivered to supermarkets, medical supplies get delivered to hospitals, shops and businesses get what they’ve ordered, households get moved, and New Zealanders get to enjoy a high standard of living.

The performance of the Auckland road border shows no logistical planning was undertaken. Rules are being adjusted daily. It’s make-it-up as you go. People can’t get to essential jobs without a full folder of paper work. We fail to understand why the Government is not reaching out to people who are expert in this work.

More people at the top will not fix this response. Rolling security guards and bringing in more military will not fix this. More people around the “working” table with expertise, pragmatism, calm-heads, logistics experience, and a cognisance of how much money companies are bleeding daily is what is needed, right now.

– Nick Leggett, CEO, Road Transport Forum


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