Auckland wharfies plead for action on safety

View from the harbour. End of the winter 2016.
Maria Slade for The Spinoff

Following the death of a young wharfie there are claims Ports of Auckland is encouraging unsafe practices by paying bonuses for moving cargo faster.

Last month 23-year-old wharfie and father Laboom Dyer suffered fatal injuries when the straddle carrier he was driving tipped over at the Ports of Auckland. The tragedy has prompted a member of another watersider’s family to speak out about the safety culture at the port.

The person, who does not wish to be identified, says the wharfie community feels changes need to be made to prioritise safety over productivity.

In an open letter to the port’s board and management (published below), they identify the ‘box move’ bonus system which rewards workers with a financial bonus for moving a higher number of containers in a month.

Wharfies can earn up to an extra $600 a month under this system, the person claims.

“A few of the old boys say as soon as that was brought in they noticed such a change in drivers. It really had people pushing boundaries… to get that extra money,” the person told The Spinoff.

However Ports of Auckland Ltd (POAL) says its commitment to safety is “genuine and deep”.

“Everyone at Ports of Auckland, including the board and management, have been deeply affected by this accident. We mourn the loss of one of our own,” it said in a statement. “We want to know more than anyone why this accident happened, so we can work to prevent anything like it happening again.”

Around 60 percent of POAL’s wharfies are members of the Maritime Union of New Zealand (MUNZ). Union secretary Russell Mayn says the box move bonus is port policy and not part of any workplace agreement. “The Maritime Union does not support a bonus that encourages productivity by speed,” he says.

POAL is the only New Zealand port operating such a system, and also allows the straddle carriers – the freight vehicles used to move containers – to be driven faster than anywhere else in the country, he claims. Top speed at Auckland is 25kms an hour, compared with between 20-23kms at other ports, he says.

Following the death of Laboom Dyer the union asked POAL to reduce the maximum speed to 22kms and put the box move bonus on hold but was declined, Mayn says.

The port company said it declined the request because there was no evidence that these factors contributed to the accident.  “All factors will be included in the investigation,” it said.

Ports of Auckland is carrying out its own investigation into last month’s fatal accident and is assisting the independent investigation by WorkSafe New Zealand.

Relations between POAL and MUNZ may not be as acrimonious as they were during the great port dispute of the early 2000s, but they remain tense to say the least.

The collective agreement finally hammered out following that protracted and bitter industrial battle has expired, and port and union are once again in facilitation trying to find common ground.

In the past year alone two disputes have ended up at the Employment Relations Authority – one over last-minute changes to shift times, and a second over breaches to rules preventing workers from being rostered on for more than 60 hours in a seven-day period. In both cases the authority found largely in the union’s favour.

The union is sensitive to publicity: It would not agree to an interview with The Spinoff without several members of its executive and its lawyer being present.

At Ports of Auckland there is a poor culture of safety and trying to maximise profit at the expense of workers, Mayn claims. “Before the last collective agreement I don’t believe there was a culture like that.”

The union’s main concerns in the current collective negotiations are around hours of work and fatigue risk management, he says.

“Really our main concern is there’s been three deaths [in our industry] in less than 18 months. We believe there should be an industry code of practice that is regulated.”

The full text of the open letter and Ports of Auckland’s response is below.

An open letter to the directors and management of Ports of Auckland, Aotearoa

Last week the unimaginable happened. A critical accident involving one of our young men that ended with us laying a brother to rest.

Following the accident that stripped a beautiful young lad from the prosperous life he was bound to live, what changes as a company have you made to ensure the safety of our whānau inside your million-dollar gates?

Your workplace is a high risk working environment. The men and women employed by you face such imminent risks as soon as they swipe into your front gates. Those men and women are our partners, our children, our siblings and our whānau. They’re more than just employees there to get a job done.

As someone whose life could have been affected in the same way this young man’s family has been now, I ask you, ‘what you are doing to prevent this from ever happening again?’

Those inside the wharfie lifestyle know far too well the pressures that can be placed on your workers. It is not only expected for them to do the long hours of their job efficiently and effectively, but to get that job done as fast as possible.

But will you rebut by saying that is simply not true? Well then why did you as management implement a ‘box move’ bonus system? This system rewards the drivers of your company with a financial bonus for the greatest amount of container box moves they are able to make within a month.

Does that not seem to you like you are creating a culture that places productivity above the personal health and safety of your workers and their peers?

I know many of those affected by this devastating accident just want to see appropriate culture changes made and better health and safety protocols implemented for the safety of our whānau.

For all those whose lives this has affected, it is something we will remember for a lifetime – but what happens in 10 years when a new bunch of young men and women think of this as nothing but a story?

I plead with you to take action. Do some reflecting on the state this company is in and make changes that will ensure this NEVER happens again.

Your company is supposedly based on ‘family values’ – if that is the case then now is your time to show it.

We should have never had to lay our brother and a beautiful young father to rest last week. Rest in love Boom – a life taken far too soon.

Sincerely,

A devastated member of the wharfies’ greater community.

Response from Ports of Auckland

“We completely understand the feelings expressed in this letter. Everyone at Ports of Auckland, including the board and management, have been deeply affected by this accident. We mourn the loss of one of our own and our condolences continue to be offered to his family, all who loved him, worked with him, socialised with him and everyone his life touched.

“Our commitment to safety is genuine and deep. We want to know more than anyone why this accident happened, so we can work to prevent anything like it happening again. We are carrying out our own investigation and we are assisting the independent investigation by WorkSafe New Zealand.

“While these investigations are underway we can’t comment on what we think might be the cause.”

Washout jeopardises Wairoa-Napier railway reopening

Plans to get logging trains moving between Wairoa and Napier by the end of the year could have been derailed by a washout during the storm in northern Hawke’s Bay.

A fortnight after the washout, ruining 45 metres of the track just north of Raupunga, KiwiRail is non-committal to a date for the reopening of the line, and is still assessing the problem.

The washout has left the railway track suspended. Photo / Duncan BrownThe washout has left the railway track suspended. Photo / Duncan Brown

“Our teams are continuing to assess the damage and any impact it may have on the planned reopening date for the line,” KiwiRail said in a short statement today.

The line has been closed for more than six years since KiwiRail decided it was uneconomical after a major washout which left about 100 metres of track suspended in the air near Mahia on the Wairoa-Gisborne sector in March 2012.

KiwiRail had put the cost of repairing that sector at over $3.5 million, and mothballed the line, which had been used only for freight trains since Cyclone Bola put an end to regular passenger services in 1988.

Haami Hilton, kaumatua, blessing a work train in anticipation of the railway line reopening. Third from left is Shane Jones, regional economic development minister. Haami Hilton, kaumatua, blessing a work train in anticipation of the railway line reopening. Third from left is Shane Jones, regional economic development minister.

Help was rejected by the government of National Party leaders John Key and Bill English, but the new Labour coalition in February announced a $5 million contribution from the Provincial Growth Fund to reopen the line for logging trains to relieve pressure on the highways amid the growth of the Wall of Timber from forestry harvesting in Northern Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne-East Coast.

The washout is north of Raupunga, on the way north towards Wairoa. Photo / Duncan BrownPhoto / Duncan Brown

During a ceremonial launch of the project in June, including the dispatch of a train from Napier with track ballast as part of the railway restoration, regional economic development minister Shane Jones sand KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy weren’t putting a precise date on the reopening, but Mr Jones said it was hoped there’d be 2-3 trains from Wairoa to the Napier Port each week within 12 months.

This picture shows the extent of the washout. Photo / Duncan BrownPhoto / Duncan Brown

It’s estimated there will be close to 6000 less logging-truck trips on the 116km stretch of State Highway 2, which has had several passing bays installed and the major work of the Mata horua Gorge realignment and bridge, but still includes winding stretches, and the notorious bend of the Devil’s Elbow between Napier and Tutira.

NZ Intermodal Transport Safety Group formed

A new body has been formed to establish and maintain best practice safety and compliance standards for all road transport operators loading, handling and delivering intermodal imported and exported freight.

The NZ Intermodal Transport Safety Group (NZITSG) is to address the significant safety and other issues associated with the interface between road transport and other modes associated with import and export freight.

The NZITSG provides the road transport industry a single and convenient portal to talk with government, officials, port management, manufacturers and other stakeholders impacting road freight operators working in the import/export arena.

“We can achieve a lot more to improve safety and compliance once all the key industry players are working collaboratively than we can doing our own separate things,” says Group Chair Murray Young.

“It also makes sense for the industry to have information disseminated down through the Group and on to the businesses affected rather than having each company trying to engage with WorkSafe NZ, ports, manufacturers and training institutions on their own.”

As a sign of the industry’s commitment to improving workplace safety 21 separate transport companies were involved at the NZITSG’s initial August meeting. At that meeting the Group’s members were elected, essentially representing the interests of the majority of road freight transporters operating in this space.

The Group’s first major project will be to improve sidelifter safety. A number of companies have shared internal policy that will be incorporated into an industry code of practice for the use of sidelifters.

The NZITSG is also engaging with Worksafe NZ, manufacturers and educational and qualification institutions such as MITO to assist with development of the code of practice.

“The use of the Sidelifter Code of Practice, while recommended, will not be mandatory although the mandatory requirements that will be referenced in it cannot be avoided,” says Young.

“It is the intention of the NZITSG to make compliance uncomplicated and make sure that needless costs or compliance burden are not unnecessarily placed on operators. This Code of Practice will be the simplest and most effective mechanism available for industry to develop for the improvement of safety and compliance. The alternative is to wait for government to intervene and take a heavy-handed regulatory approach.”

The Group’s members represent each of the main port regions throughout New Zealand and are:

• Murray Young – NZ Express Transport – Christchurch

• Ian Pauling – CODA Group – Auckland

• Calven Bonney – L.W. Bonney & Sons– Auckland

• Mike Herrick – TDL Group – Auckland

• Grant Darrah – Reliance Transport – Auckland

• Clinton Burgess – CODA Group – Tauranga

• Nigel Eden – Tomoana Warehousing – Napier

• John Anderson – LG Andersons Transport– Wellington

• Richard Smith – Hilton Haulage – Christchurch

• Mark Purdue – H.W.R Group – Dunedin

The Road Transport Forum is providing secretariat services to the NZITSG.

China-owned fleet becomes world’s second largest

A remarkable maritime event occurred recently. China became the world’s second-largest shipowning country, overtaking Japan. The top shipowner, Greece, is still much larger but the gap is closing as China’s fleet expansion continues at a rapid rate. Numerous giant ore carriers, tankers and container ships scheduled for delivery to Chinese owners in the months and years ahead are likely to further boost capacity.

Strong and accelerating growth in the China-owned merchant ship fleet has unfolded. In 2017 an increase exceeding 9 percent was seen, and recent signs suggest that this year’s annual rise could be similar. The extensive orderbook for new vessels due to be delivered through the next two or three years will add substantial tonnage, but other less predictable influences also will determine fleet growth.

Many new ships will be employed in long-haul international trades where China is the cargo importer or exporter. For container ships, cargoes both to and from China are likely to provide employment while, for bulk tonnage in the biggest size categories, import trades will be most prominent. Amid vast quantities of manufactured goods and bulk commodities moving, potential for further participation of China-owned ships is clearly visible but, on some trade routes, other nationalities’ ships may be displaced.

Powerful fleet expansion
In the past three years and eight months, the China-owned fleet has expanded by just over one-third, a higher percentage increase than seen in the Greek-owned fleet and much higher than Japan’s minimal growth. According to revised figures compiled by Clarksons Research, the China-owned fleet recorded growth rates of 6.5 percent in 2015, 7.5 percent in 2016 and 9.4 percent in 2017, before adding 7.1 percent in the January-August 2018 period.

China’s fleet comprised 7,744 ships totalling 170 million gross tons at the end of August this year, above Japan’s 167.6m gt. The Greek fleet total was 222m gt. Gross tonnage is used in these statistics as a common ship capacity measure for all vessel types. China’s fleet has expanded by 34 percent since the end of 2014, compared with 23 percent growth for Greece. Japan has seen only a slow 2 percent rise over the same period.

Notable ships delivered
At the end of last year orders at shipbuilding yards for new vessels to be delivered to China-based shipowners comprised a huge volume. The 25.5m gt total, according to Clarksons figures, was equivalent to almost 17 percent of the existing China-owned fleet as calculated then. Within this orderbook a large proportion was scheduled for delivery in 2018, and a striking feature was the numerous orders for the biggest bulk carriers, tankers and container ships. Many of these newbuildings already have been completed and begun operating in the first eight months. The remaining September-December period, continuing into next year and later, is likely to see more ships delivered.

One especially notable feature beginning this year is the start of the second valemax ore carrier programme. Among bulk carriers, these are the largest in existence, with a 400,000 deadweight tonnes capacity, well over twice the capacity of the standard capesize vessel which is often the maximum size participating in most trades. China-based companies ordered 30 valemaxes, of which 18 totalling 7.2 million dwt were due for delivery during 2018, and 10 appear to have been delivered in the first eight months followed by an additional ship this month.

The current year’s scheduled valemax deliveries consist of 7 for China Merchants, 4 for China Ore Shipping and 7 for VLOC Holding Company. China Ore Shipping is a subsidiary of Cosco, while VLOC Holding is a subsidiary of ICBC (Industrial & Commercial Bank of China) Financial Leasing.

Mammoth container ships are another prominent feature in the orderbook, with many scheduled for delivery in 2018. It appears that 11 ultra-large vessels with the greatest capacity currently existing are due to be delivered this year, in the 19-21,000 teu (twenty-foot equivalent unit) range, all ordered by Cosco Shipping. In the tanker sector orders for vlccs (very large crude carriers) are at the forefront. The scheduled 2018 deliveries comprised 9 ships of 310,000 dwt for China VLCC, a China Merchants subsidiary, and 2 of 308,000 dwt for CSG Tanker Dalian.

Large newbuilding orderbook
The orderbook for new ships stretches out through the next two years and later. According to the Clarksons data, September-December 2018 deliveries scheduled, of all types and sizes of ship, total 4.8m gt, followed by 9.9m gt in 2019 and a further 6.1m gt in 2020 and beyond. The entire orderbook for China-owned vessels, at end August 2018, amounts to 20.8m gt which is equivalent to 12 percent of the country’s existing fleet capacity.

Compared with the other two largest owner nationalities, China has a more extensive orderbook than Greece which has a 16.9m gt total, equivalent to under 8 percent of the current fleet. Japan has the number one orderbook totalling 25.1m gt, amounting to 15 percent of its current fleet.

Looking ahead to next year’s and later deliveries, numerous mega vessels in the bulk carrier, tanker and container ship categories are set to augment the China-owned fleet. In 2019, the valemax 400,000 dwt ore carrier fleet will be expanded by the scheduled addition of 10 ships for owners based in China, followed by 2 in 2020. A further 4 vlcc tankers in the 308-310,000 dwt size range are listed for 2019, with a similar number in 2020-21. There are 6 ultra-larger boxships on order for 2019 delivery, reportedly postponed from this year.

Among other big vessel categories, two owners in China will take delivery of 6 guaibamax 325,000 dwt ore carriers starting next year when two will be completed. Another bulk carrier category is newcastlemax 208,000 dwt vessels, 3 of which are due for delivery to owners in China in 2019, followed by a further 7 in 2020-21. In the tanker sector, 3 suezmax 158,000 dwt vessels are scheduled for 2020-21 delivery. Also, three 172,410 cubic metre liquefied natural gas (lng) carriers are scheduled over the next two years.

Promising employment
One significant aspect in a global shipping market context is the employment patterns of the new China-owned vessels. Many new ships, especially those in the largest size categories, are likely to be employed in trades where China is at one end of the route, either as the cargo importer or exporter. However, while this activity may form the majority of employment, some ships may be occasionally utilised in trades where China is not involved as a voyage destination or origin. These are the traditional international ‘cross-trades’.

A full analysis of newbuilding vessels’ employment is not feasible, owing to limited information about intentions or contract details. Also, evolving global freight market conditions can be expected to have an impact on employment arrangements, resulting in changing perceptions over extended time periods about trades in which to participate. Nevertheless, in some cases such as the mega-size container ships, the most likely deployment and trading patterns are fairly obvious from a review of the market for this tonnage.

For the new giant valemax ore carriers, there is clarity about their intended usage both in the period immediately ahead and in the longer term future. In all cases, lifespan charters for the thirty newbuildings of this size now being delivered were agreed when the orders were placed in early 2016. The charterer is Brazilian mining company Vale and employment of these vessels starting 2018 or later, after delivery from the shipbuilders, is on a contract of affreightment (coa) basis over a period of 27 years. It seems clear that the principal trade route will be Brazil to China carrying iron ore, although other destinations are likely.

During recent months, one new valemax was on a route identifiable as loading in Brazil followed by discharging at ports in Japan. Another new ship of this type evidently discharged ore at the distribution facility at Teluk Rubiah in Malaysia. A further recent example of diverse trading patterns is a newly-delivered vlcc tanker arriving in Rotterdam, after being recorded at an oil loading port in the Arabian Gulf. This anecdotal information shows significant involvement of new China-owned shipping capacity, as well as the existing fleet, in broader global trading.

An aspect relevant to the introduction of the new vessels is growth in cargo volumes and ship demand within the trades where employment is assumed to be concentrated. For example, arrival of the new valemaxes this year has coincided with signs pointing to a slowing upwards trend in China’s iron ore imports. Seaborne iron ore trade is dominated by China’s more than two-thirds share of global imports. If this slackening trend persists, even if the proportion supplied to China by Brazil – the route on which valemaxes are employed – increases, the new ships may displace other nationalities’ vessels currently participating.

Upwards trend foreseeable
Newly constructed capacity is the most visible and transparent growth element in the China-owned fleet. Other influences determining the outcome are secondhand vessel purchases on the international market, sales of vessels to that market and existing tonnage sold to shipbreakers in China or other countries within the global ship recycling market. These transactions are usually more difficult to track and monitor comprehensively, and therefore overall estimates rely to some extent on guesswork.

Consequently forecasts of the China-owned fleet’s future growth are just a broad indication of the likely magnitude of changes. The longer ahead predictions stretch, the greater the uncertainty surrounding calculations. Evolving freight market trends and expectations could have significant effects on secondhand sales and purchases volumes, while scrapping decisions also could be affected by freight rate levels and market activity, especially when vessels are employed in international cross-trades where China is neither importer nor exporter of the cargo carried.

Nevertheless, despite these imponderables, it seems arguable that a foreseeable trend in the China-owned fleet is further substantial expansion over the next few years. China’s position as the world’s second-largest shipowning country probably will be consolidated.

Too many vacancies in trucking industry leave companies struggling

FBT freight company bosses Malcolm Campbell and John Geraghty.

Trevor Read/STUFF
FBT freight company bosses Malcolm Campbell and John Geraghty.

Little pay, long hours, and limited experience are reasons industry experts watch truck driver positions sit around unfilled.

And it looks to be cyclical problem with no single solution.

John Geraghty, co-founder of New Plymouth-based freight company FBT, said the “now hiring” signs which have popped up at Taranaki trucking companies are a common sight around the country.

Class 5 truck drivers are in high demand in Taranaki, but those in the industry say it's a struggle to fill the positions.

MARTIN DE RUYTER/STUFF
Class 5 truck drivers are in high demand in Taranaki, but those in the industry say it’s a struggle to fill the positions.

As the spokesman for J.D. Hickman, Hopkins, Peter Sole Transport, G. J. Sole, and Jackson Transport, Geraghty knows full well the scale of the problem.

“Those in the industry are getting old,” he said.

“But it’s a problem that starts at school because it doesn’t get presented as a career.”

A shortage of truck drivers is a nation-wide issue, industry leaders say.
Pictured: Temuka driver Johnny Baxter.

DOUG FIELD/STUFF
A shortage of truck drivers is a nation-wide issue, industry leaders say. Pictured: Temuka driver Johnny Baxter.

Life on the road hauling logs, milk or vegetables was a rewarding profession, Geraghty said.

“They take off and they’re totally in charge of themselves for the day. It’s their office.”

But selling the idea of driving heavy vehicles, no matter the comfort or technology, could be tough with drawbacks such as long work weeks.

“While some drivers will work a 40 hours a week, others will work 50, 60, sometimes 70 hours per week,” Geraghty said.

“There’s quite a lot of operations that operate 24-hours, so those overnight shifts could also be a detractor.”

Port Taranaki and Fonterra operate 24 hours a day in order to maintain their business relations, he explained, which then requires them to use a trucking company that could provide drivers at any time of day.

If a trucking company couldn’t provide drivers for those hours, they would miss out.

“So it’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

And earnings were bog-standard.

Heavy truck drivers could make between $16 an hour to $25 an hour, Careers New Zealand said.

“I do think we can do better,” Geraghty said.

“But it starts with what we can afford.”

It’s a costly industry to enter, too.

Class 5 drivers are highest demand, which is a level of experience that takes years to reach.

Of the 16 jobs in Taranaki for truck drivers listed on TradeMe – some of which included multiple openings – nine were for Class 5 drivers and seven were for Class 4 drivers.

While Class 1, 2 and 3 can operate trucks and trailers, the heaviest of the vehicle tops out at 25,000 kilograms – or a truck less than 5.4 metres in length.

And though a Class 4 can operate a vehicle more than 18,000kg, the licence doesn’t allow the operation of trucks covered by a Class 3 licence.

Wayne Mehrtens, New Plymouth manager of TIL Freight, said it can take quite a while to get through all the steps.

“We are all struggling to get Class 5 drivers,” he said.

But holding a licence does not guarantee work.

Spencer Shaw, Taranaki area manager of One Staff recruitment agency, said there is pool of licensed drivers but it’s time spent behind the wheel that companies are looking for.

“We can pay to get these licences but at the end of the day, it’s hard to get a job without the experience.”

She said companies were wary of placing an inexperienced driver in the seat of a $170,000 truck and then sending them off to drive New Zealand roads.

And even if companies offered apprenticeships, the training was confined to the training grounds, he said.

“It’s a bit of a catch-22.”

Apprenticeships have in the past assisted TIL Freight in filling vacancies, Mehrtens said, but it’s an expense paid out of pocket.

“What we need is to have our industry recognised as a skill rather than a ‘oh I can’t get a job, I’ll just be a truck driver’,” he said.

And there’s more to the trade than driving trucks, such as working as a storeman or a dispatcher, Mehrtens said.

“We just want to encourage more people into the industry because we all love it.”

 

 – Stuff

Freight cost rises inevitable

Freight cost rises for a wide range of goods is inevitable says the National Road Carriers Association, the country’s leading road transport organisation.

“Road transport companies are under increased cost pressure from a variety of directions which will flow through to consumers,” says David Aitken, NRC’s CEO.

Next month (1 October) Road user charges are due to increase – by up to 10 percent – depending on the weight and type of vehicle.

“This will affect every trucking company nationwide,” says Mr Aitken. “When the majority of goods we consume are delivered by truck to where we purchase them it is inevitable the cost of the goods will increase.”

Other cost increases facing road transport operators include rising fuel prices, insurance, wages and salaries, congestion and waiting times at the ports.

“Fuel prices have gone up, 13% in the last 4 months alone as a result of increasing crude oil prices and the weakening New Zealand dollar against the United States dollar.”

Mr Aitken said companies in the Auckland area were already paying 11.5 cents a litre more for fuel as a result of the recently introduced regional fuel tax.

Increasing congestion – particularly in Auckland – but also in other major cities, Hamilton, Tauranga – Mt Maunganui, Wellington and Christchurch has meant trucks were not getting through as much work in a day, but operational costs still had to be covered.

“It’s taking longer to get goods onto and off the wharf, especially in Auckland, and that adds to costs. The old cliché that time is money still holds true,” says Mr Aitken.

There have also been increases in insurance premiums and higher wages and salaries necessary to retain staff in an industry where there are personnel shortages.

“Road freight transport costs are rising,” says Mr Aitken. “It’s up to individual companies to calculate how much the rise might be and in some parts of the country it could be more than other areas.”

Given these costs increases, the road freight sector will need to pass these onto their customers who will ultimately pass them onto consumers.

Auckland’s new fuel tax cost us $13.2 million in its first month

Auckland’s Regional Fuel Tax has generated $13.2 million in its first month of operation – about $700,000 more than initial estimates.

The fuel tax came into effect on July 1, when petrol stations across the super-city put prices up by 11.5c per litre.

It was introduced as a means to raise funds to improve road safety and congestion across Auckland’s choked transport network.

Of the $13.2m (excluding GST) collected from 1-31 July, Auckland Council said $11m would go directly into transport projects – including rural road safety upgrades in Rodney and Franklin and new red light safety cameras.

A $1 million one-off lump sum would then go to the New Zealand Transport Agency for the administration costs in setting up the tax.

Auckland's Regional Fuel Tax has generated $13.2 million in its first month.

SIMON MAUDE/STUFF
Auckland’s Regional Fuel Tax has generated $13.2 million in its first month.
The rest would be spent on rebates and service costs.

The Regional Fuel Tax is collected by NZTA, which forwards the revenue to Auckland Council, less any expenses.

Before it was brought in, it was estimated it would raise $1.5 billion over 10 years, allowing the council leverage to invest $2.8b into the $28b Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP), the majority of which will be spent upgrading the city’s rail and bus networks.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said with raising road fatalities and serious injuries in Auckland, spending on road safety would be an immediate priority from the revenue.

“Last year 64 people died on Auckland’s roads and 749 suffered serious injuries. The increase in deaths and serious injuries was three times higher than elsewhere in New Zealand,” he said.

“The human, social and economic cost to our community of the road toll is huge and must be addressed.

“Aside from road safety spending, the focus of new investment from the RFT is to fix Auckland’s congested transport network.”

Auckland Council’s manager of financial strategy, Michael Burns, initially said the tax meant the council would be receiving on average an extra $12.5m per month.

Quarterly reports would go to the council’s Finance and Performance committee, with the first report due in November.

AA’s Auckland infrastructure spokesman Barney Irvine said the revenue generated was line with the association’s expectations.

“For us, the bigger question is whether all of the extra cost is being charged in Auckland, or whether fuel companies are spreading it around to other regions as well,” he said.

“We’ve heard some suggestions that this is happening, but it’s still too early to say. The Government’s due to report back on the performance of the scheme after the first three months, so we’re expecting that to provide a lot more clarity.”

 – Stuff

Bill Richardson Transport World

The Transport World workshop team in Invercargill preparing for the 2018 Autospectacular event in...

The Transport World workshop team in Invercargill preparing for the 2018 Autospectacular event in Dunedin, along side just one of the vehicles from their collection that will be on display at the event, a 1957 Ford Fairlane. (PHOTO: Kelly Lindsay)

Over the past few years, Invercargill’s Bill Richardson Transport World has become a focal point for classic-vehicle enthusiasts. Now the largest private museum of its type on the planet, it displays hundreds of vehicles, automobilia, and wearable art, as well as operating The Grille restaurant.

Just down the road is the out standing Classic Motorcycle Mecca, Australasia’s premier motorcycle museum, which is soon to double in size.

For the first time, Transport World will take some of its cars outside Invercargill, bringing five to the show in its huge Mack Vision transporter, a showpiece in its own right.

Their exhibit will include three Fords, a Citroen, and “Archie” the Kombi. Learn more about Transport World at the Autospectacular.

A Plug-Free Way to Fill the World With Electric Vehicles

Electric VehiclesEngineers work in front of a computer at the Hevo Inc. power facility. (Christopher Lee/Bloomberg News)

Umer Anwer stops on the street near Tesla Inc.’s Brooklyn showroom and grabs his smartphone. He’s looking for a spot to charge his electric car, and the Tesla charging plugs won’t work with the Nissan Leaf he’s driving. In fact, he would prefer not to bother with a plug at all.

Hevo Inc., the wireless-charging startup where Anwer is chief technology officer, aims to overturn the burgeoning industry that’s busy building out a global infrastructure to provide power to electric cars through public plugs. There were about 582,000 public charging outlets worldwide at the end of 2017, according to a recent report by Bloomberg, and that number is forecast to grow by nearly 30% this year. Virtually every one of these charging locations uses plugs.

Anwer eventually maneuvers his electric car over a device that looks like a white plastic panel, then presses a button on a smartphone app. After pulling into the parking space, blue dots flash under the windshield to indicate that power is flowing into his battery. There are about 6 inches of empty space between the charger and the car, which has been modified to receive power through an electromagnetic field.

This could represent the future of car charging. Suburban driveways, public spaces, parking lots and interstate rest stops could be tricked out with wireless ports to serve the tens of millions of electric cars expected to be on the roads over the next two decades. Wireless charging, if it catches on, may provide a solution for one of the main questions hanging over electric cars: How can cities accommodate the infrastructure needed without cluttering up streets with posts and wires. In cities such as New York, London and Hong Kong, where parking is scarce, it’s difficult to imagine where extra space can be made to accommodate idle cars while they recharge.

Anwer

Anwer

Hevo has raised $4.5 million to date in a bid to solve that problem, with funding evenly split between venture capital and government grants. After wrapping up 10 pilot projects across four countries and four U.S. states, the seven-year-old startup is moving into manufacturing. The company has set up shop in a factory in New York, where it plans to soon crank out its first 25 wireless chargers.

Hevo founder Jeremy McCool, a former U.S. Army captain, spent 14 months in Iraq witnessing the consequences of energy geopolitics before enrolling in Columbia University to study sustainable development. Hevo grew out of a school project. “I started the company with no team, no technology and $800,” McCool said in an interview. “Probably the worst and more naive way to start a company, by all means.”

The company plans to make thousands of devices in the next 18 months, the volume necessary to make good on the supply agreements he has signed with carmakers and utilities. McCool declined to identify his clients, citing nondisclosure agreements.

Electric vehicles are projected to undergo explosive growth in the coming years. The International Energy Agency projects that the number of plug-in and hybrid cars on the roads will triple to 13 million by the end of the decade. More than a quarter of all new cars sold annually will be electric by 2030, according to forecasts by Bloomberg, with the global ranks of electric cars reaching 30 million by then.

Electric Vehicles

McCool

Of course, as things stand today, virtually all of these cars would need to be plugged into a socket before they could be charged. Before the world can adopt wireless charging, cars already on the road would need a retrofit and carmakers ultimately would need to tweak their existing designs.

“The equipment on the vehicle is cheaper and more lightweight than existing plug-in charging equipment by a factor of five to 10 times,” McCool said. “We’re also future-proofing for autonomous electric vehicles. If you don’t need a human to park the car, you shouldn’t need a human to charge the car.”

This technology also could provide a solution to the issue of how to charge electric cars in densely populated cities. Today, most drivers of the plug-in cars on the road almost always will charge up at home. That requires a garage or a driveway. Installing Hevo’s devices in apartment building parking lots and along residential streets could help open up new markets, from New York to Tokyo, where access to plugs can prove difficult.

“Wireless charging technology has improved steadily and can definitely make charging at home more convenient,” said Colin McKerracher, head of advanced transportation analysis at Bloomberg. “The most promising near-term applications are en route charging for buses. For widespread adoption, several major automakers would need to fully back the technology.”

The engineering team at Hevo works out of a garage in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood, where much of the prototyping and small-batch manufacturing takes place.

Brooklyn-based Hevo is working with three carmakers, two top auto parts suppliers and three energy companies. BMW AG already is selling a car with wireless-charging capability: The 530e hybrid has been available in Germany since May. Daimler AG, the maker of Mercedes-Benz cars, presented the technology as a future charging solution when it launched its S-Class plug-in hybrid, and Daimler spokesman Christoph Sedlmayr said the company will introduce it as soon as it’s “technically fully developed.”

If wireless charging takes off, it may threaten the conventional electric-vehicle charging industry that already has attracted millions of dollars. Investment into companies building out charging networks rose 165% last year to $345 million, according to Cleantech Group, and there have been 18 deals this year totaling $223 million. Other companies, including WiTricity and Plugless Power, also are developing wireless chargers.

Oil companies have made recent moves into charging to allay concerns about losing customers at gas stations. BP agreed to buy Chargemaster for 130 million pounds ($169 million), and Royal Dutch Shell snapped up NewMotion. Both companies have built out networks of charging infrastructure in Europe. Several European utilities, from Fortum Oyj of Finland to Innogy SE in Germany, are installing thousands of chargers in garages, parking lots and next to highways across the continent.

If it can be commercialized, technology such as Hevo’s someday may shake up these plans.

“Do I think everything will go wireless? Yes, I think so — 10 to 15 years,” said Michael Farkas, executive chairman of Blink Charging Co. in Florida, which has deployed more than 14,000 charging stations across the United States. “You just pull over to a spot. That will be the simplest way to charge a car.”

The Port of Tauranga has become a megachurch: too big to touch

Pipi beds die and algae blooms, but iwi are repeatedly told ‘there’s nothing to see here’, writes Graham Cameron. 

When the Tainui canoe entered Tauranga harbour a millennium ago, it had the misfortune to run aground on a then prominent sandbar called Ruahine that sat below the waterline between Matakana Island and Mauao.

The Tainui was refloated and continued on its journey; the incident in which the Ruahine sandbar was central is remembered in a well known Tauranga Moana tauparapara:

Pāpaki tū ana ngā tai ki Mauao, i whānekenekehia, i whānukunukuhia, ka whiua reretia Wahinerua ki te wai, ki tai wiwi, ki tai wawa, ki te whai ao, ki te ao mārama.

You may well hear that tauparapara at our marae, but you won’t see the Ruahine sandbar if you walk Mauao. By 1970 the sandbar no longer existed. It’d been destroyed in the process of widening and deepening the harbour and entrance for the establishment of the Port of Tauranga.

Our church is progress, and in the Bay of Plenty, the megachurch is the Port of Tauranga. Megachurches tend to not so much follow the law as create the law; the news that the Port of Tauranga has operated without a consent for stormwater for the past 27 years came as no surprise to tāngata whenua in Tauranga Moana.

The Port of Tauranga is a shining city on the hill. It’s the engine that drives almost everything here. Logs, kiwifruit, steel, palm kernel, coal and containers all flow in and out, like the lungs of our economy. Cruise ships visit in increasing numbers – loved by local retailers, despised by locals who remember a time when it was all for them.

The port is jobs, but not great jobs: casual, no longer zero hours but definitely not certain hours, de-unionised, long shifts and efficiency first. The port is jobs and the Port of Tauranga has kept bread on the table for many of our old people and our whanaunga since its inception.

For all intents and purposes, the Port is a religious idol in our privatised, profit, growth and market driven New Zealand. And like all true and holy idols, it’ll brook no opposition – it’s central to the power of the political and economic elite.

The Port of Tauranga is 54% owned by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. The designation ‘regional council’ means that the 54% owner of the Port of Tauranga is also responsible under the Resource Management Act 1991 for managing the effects of using freshwater, land, air and coastal waters by issuing resource consents. For example, resource consents for stormwater discharge from ports.

Where parties fail to get a consent or follow the conditions of a consent, they can be fined or prosecuted. In 27 years of stormwater discharging into Tauranga harbour from the Port of Tauranga, the Bay of Plenty Regional Council has never fined or prosecuted the port.

The past 27 years are a series of false starts. The first consent lodged in 1998 never went anywhere because the port was slow in providing information requested by the council. The Regional Council then tried to couple the port’s consent with another for the Tauranga City Council. That failed because they couldn’t agree on who was liable for what discharge. Then it was revealed that Beca, contracted to do the consenting by the port, had lost the paperwork. The third application was lodged in 2013, but apparently nothing happened because of five years of consultation. We are now onto the fourth application. It is unlikely the port will be compliant this year.

When Radio New Zealand’s Checkpoint investigated this, everyone seemed disappointed with themselves, but not exactly up in arms. Stormwater doesn’t sound all that worrying. And the stormwater runoff from the Port of Tauranga is not notably toxic.

David Culliford looked into the stormwater runoff at the Port of Tauranga in his 2015 thesis ‘Characterisation, potential toxicity and fate of storm water run-off from log storage areas of the Port of Tauranga’. As best as anyone can tell, it’s all within acceptable limits, but Culliford’s work is clear that requires more research. The runoff from the log storage includes bits of wood, resins, chemicals and at times raw effluent. The runoff can slightly lower the pH of the water which is shown to affect the development and behaviour of marine life. There are periods of acute toxicity, particularly from raw effluent during storms. The runoff is detectable to over 60 metres, indicating there’s likely a wide spread of whatever impacts exist. At the moment there isn’t a good base of research as to the impact of dredging on sedimentation and toxicity. Which led to the conclusion that all is essentially well.

But sit at a table during a hākari at any of our marae, and we all know something is wrong. Pipi beds disappear. That’s not abnormal, but the increasing regularity and the size of the beds that have disappeared is a change. There are places where you don’t collect pipi anymore because they’re unsafe. There’s so much more sea lettuce than we ever had before. Algal blooms are normal; we are often told we can’t eat our kaimoana. Most people just ignore the warnings. And we’re told by our Port and our councils that it’s normal, that it’s seasonal, that it’s always been like this. It hasn’t always been like this.

The uncomfortable reality today is that the Port of Tauranga is too big to be allowed to fail and we can’t afford to stop its growth and development. You will hear few voices calling to limit the Port of Tauranga. Neither their majority shareholder the regional council, nor the local community given how many Mums and Dads have shares in the port, nor iwi.

Our iwi have not held the Port of Tauranga to account. Our lines of defence are quite literally in the sand; we have never halted anything the port wanted to do. If we are to be honest, we have always come around to an agreement with the port. The last instance was dredging that was consented in 2012 where the shipping channel was deepened by three metres to allow cargo ships with nearly double the capacity into our port.

This was only two years after the Rena had run aground on the Astrolabe Reef. As the consent was being considered, a cargo ship carrying logs lost power in the channel and threatened running onto the rocks of Mauao. The dredging at that time included the removal of a section of Panepane, a large pipi bed off Matakana Island.

Even in this instance, as iwi we followed our normal pattern: bold statements and threats of protests; submissions against the consents; the consent granted and challenged at the Environment Court; our agreement to a new oversight committee, some scholarships, the opportunity for shares, and research that will confirm there is nothing to see here.

All of us in the Tauranga Moana community bow our heads to our local religious idol. However passionately we love our harbour and our environment, in the end we are willing to accept the assurances of the Port of Tauranga that they have this under control. We hold these things to be true: the Port of Tauranga will protect the marine environment for us and provide excellent returns every year.

No stormwater consent can pretend to stand as a barrier to such an expression of collective faith. No fine can be allowed to tarnish the reputation of our regional economic saviour, washed clean by the millions of trays of kiwifruit. As we splash at the water’s edge this summer, we will look across to the white steeples of the cranes, and smile at our tamariki, warning them not to eat the pipi because of the algal bloom. And we’ll tell them, don’t worry, everything is going to be alright.