We’ve just finished what I suspect will be the busiest and most hectic week of our year, but also one of the most rewarding.

The highlight was our annual Conference during which I was asked by plenty of people about how it was going.  My answer was along the lines that I didn’t think it really mattered – Conference is organised for the members and our key partners so ultimately, questions about the conference’s success are best answered by those people.

That said, our team did have some key outcomes we wanted people to leave with. We wanted delegates to leave better informed which ultimately can help them manage their businesses better. We wanted them to enjoy themselves, and finally we wanted to again demonstrate that we provide good value for money in terms of advocating on their behalf.

Given the large number of people taking photos of the many slides during the presentations, I think it was informative.

On the second point my observation was that people were enjoying themselves, particularly when one of our advisers was allowed a go on the band’s drum set during Wednesday night’s function. He was pretty good too!

Katherine Rich suggested that successful advocacy requires bit of chutzpah, a Yiddish term, which describes a combination set of characteristics including ideas, energy and a bit of cheekiness. From the micro level issues we are dealing with in the respective Sector Groups, to the more macro level issues we need from government to commit to in our Election Platform, I believe we clearly demonstrated we are an effective advocacy organisation.

So from my perspective as an event facilitator this was very successful.

My Blog doesn’t give enough space to cover all the value I took away from Conference, but here a few highlights.

We held our event earlier than normal given the upcoming election,

As anticipated the political debate and the high energy and raucous discussion typically reserved for Parliament’s Debating Chamber was transferred to the Lower Hutt Event Centre.

At times I was almost got worried for the safety of our MC Josie Pagani as things hotted up and there were several fiery engagements. In three years’ time when we do it again I’ve made a note to add that session to our HSSE Risk register!

We ran a fun poll, with delegates voting before and after the political panel, and the results were fascinating. At the start, the Blue team had a substantial majority lead with 77% of the vote, with Yellow being next most prominent at 16% and the rest, Red, Green and Black fighting over the minor money.

However, after the debate, the Blue team’s majority took a major hit with a massive swing to Black going from 3 to 23%!  My takeouts are that the real election will be close, some parties will need to do some careful strategic thinking to manage the risk of vote splitting, and nothing beats saying things in straight-up, simple terms. So thank you Mr. Shane Jones.

Another highlight for me was our Awards Dinner.

Celebrating success is very important to me, it provides a chance to reflect on the huge amount of good work that’s going on in the sector.

Further detail on the various awards will come through a variety of channels over the next weeks and months but what struck me was the diversity across the winners.

Of the 6 awards, 3 went to women. In fact, 4 of the awards were accepted on stage by women. There was a wide range of age across the recipients, the innovation award was won jointly by 3 livestock operators, and a range of business sizes shared the awards.

Make of that whatever you want, but for me that demonstrates we’re all going through the structural changes required to make the the future of road transport more secure.

Early this morning I did a radio interview regarding the removal of the Government’s Covid Transport Relief package in regard fuel and RUC. I reminded the interviewer that almost everything that people need to live comes via road transport.

Economist Cam Bagrie said at his Conference talk that margins in transport have decreased to levels similar to 2008. Road user charges typically make up about 11% of direct transport costs therefore the removal of the relief will increase costs by about 4%. That shift can’t be absorbed without profitability taking a big hit.

On three occasions the Government has extended the period of relief which shows the demand and value it brought to NZ Inc. Its removal means the cost of living will go up as our operators must pass the costs on.

In closing, I want to thank all delegates, commercial partners, our wide range of speakers, and the transport spokespersons from ACT, Greens, Labour, National, and New Zealand First for making our Conference such a great event

-Dom Kalasih is interim chief executive of Ia Ara Aotearoa Transporting New Zealand.

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