One of the cleverest pieces of old-fashioned politicking to gain traction in New Zealand still annoys me. And the fact it still does shows just how clever it was. In fact whoever dubbed what at the time was the proposed Puhoi to Wellsford upgrade as the “Holiday Highway” should be both given a PR award for instantly creating an image of wastefulness, while at the same time vilified for seriously undermining efforts to improve the economic prospects of everywhere north of Auckland. Not to mention the economic benefit to the family of contractors large and small who will benefit both during construction and during ongoing maintenance afterwards.
A quick Google search shows that every major (and many minor) New Zealand media outlet other than those in the North have used the holiday highway expression in blaring headlines –probably written by underpaid, undervalued and economically ignorant junior copy-writers. But major infrastructure projects are too important for throw-away lines. Prime Minister John Key was recently in Kerikeri, and told a packed meeting that he “wanted do away with the misleading implication that a four-lane motorway between Auckland and, in a few years, Wellsford was a ‘holiday highway’ for Omaha holiday home owners like himself, rather than better infrastructure.”
And yes, there’s a direct quantifiable link that can be drawn between Northland’s ability to attract businesses (and therefore employment), and its long-term economic viability. Even the Northland Regional Council says, “Northland has traditionally lagged behind much of the country in key economic indicators like Gross Domestic Product (GDP), employment and household income.”
But there are also life-skill benefits that projects of this magnitude bring to a region and its workforce. On the surface these skills have very little to do with being able to build a better road, bridge, or ditch, but they are the skills that workers take home: from improved literacy and communication through to greater awareness of health benefits through weight-loss and quitting smoking.
These programmes improve productivity and employee engagement, and reduce turnover. The skills learnt on these programmes are transferable to the next job and employer, raising the standards at every step. These workers become valued by good employers who will work hard to ensure they have continuity of work and ongoing skill development. And people in regular work build strong communities; they grow strong families; and they contribute to the economic development of NZ Inc.
What part of all that falls under the category of “holiday highway”?
Kevin Lawrence, Editor
If you haven’t already heard the news, or read pages 5 and 52 of this issue, Jeremy Sole, Civil Contractors CEO, Contrafed Publishing MD and contributor to this magazine for 61 consecutive issues leaves on December 19. On behalf of the Contrafed Publishing team I’d like to thank Jeremy for all his efforts helping Contrafed overcome difficulties and re-establish itself as a flourishing publishing company prepared for future growth and opportunities. And for a few good laughs along the way.