A few weeks ago, Newsroom published a fantastic interview by Rod Oram with Don Braid, the Managing Director of Mainfreight. I thought it was particularly open and insightful about the business but more importantly there were a few crucial comments related to many of the issues we discuss.
I’ve transcribed a few aspects I thought were particularly interesting.
Oram 5:00 – What are the main issues here and particularly where does the government need to invest in infrastructure?
Braid – I think we’ve lagged and the growth of the country has outstripped the infrastructure investment, and both from a roading perspective and from a rail perspective. What we know is that we just can’t continue to build more roads, we need to use rail as an alternative. And we see it as the second corridor really, and not just for freight but for passenger. And those debates around light rail to the airport are an example here in Auckland City are important, and I think it’s a way to actually take away that congestion we’ve got on the road.
But we’ve found rail to be extremely accommodating and extremely effective way to move freight in this country and we can get the same service levels that we have by road, and I think the country is now seeing with the earthquake and with the amount of freight that has had to transfer from rail to road to get around the earthquake zone between Picton and Kaikoura, our roads just can’t handle that volume. So for us, it’s important we have a rail infrastructure that continues to be invested in and continues to be effective. The government needs to think about that railway more than just more roads.
I think many automatically assume that companies involved in using trucks to move freight around will only push for more roads to be built so it’s refreshing to see Braid’s comments calling for a more balanced transport system. That this also extended to investing in public transport was even more pleasing. As I’ve long said when discussing transport with people, the two key tasks of our transport system are to move people and freight. One of the reasons we need to focus on providing a network like the Congestion Free Network is to give people realistic options so they don’t have to drive. That then allows us to focus the use of our road network on those who don’t have an alternative, like moving local freight.
It certainly sounds like we’d agree with him on much more than we disagree. I guess this is the difference between a trucking company and a logistics company.
Next we have
Oram 10:00- One of those new directors is Sue Tindall who is also Chief Financial Officer for Auckland Council. Mainfreight has a lot to do with Auckland Council, so how do you ensure there is no conflict of interest should it issue arise.
Braid – Well we’d like to have an interaction with the Auckland Council but we wouldn’t haven’t had their transport business/division/executives here ever so there is no relationship. So there is no communication with the Auckland Council to be perfectly honest. So I don’t see any conflict arising. Hopefully Sue will understand the difficulties that our business has trying to get around the Auckland City and brings some pressure to bear on the Auckland Council for the betterment of everybody
Oram – So over all these years you’ve never had someone from the council, in strategy or planning, come and ask you what you need as a major transport company here in Auckland.
Braid – Never, I mean the good thing is we had Phil Goff come and see us but he was on the campaign trail, have we seen him since, of course not.
While I certainly don’t think the council or AT should be personally going to each company individually on every issue, it does seem crazy that not once have they been engaged by either organisation. Perhaps one of the challenges is that there are multiple groups advocating for different slices of the trucking industry so maybe it’s assumed they cover Mainfreight too, when they don’t. Given Mainfreight are the biggest logistics company in NZ, perhaps they should be more involved to help present a more balanced view.
As I said at the start, I thought it was a very open and insightful interview.