This is a quick overview of Transporting New Zealand’s 2023 conference “A Changing World”. This report is being sent to the Transporting New Zealand Board and the executive members of all four regional associations, but please feel free to share with other members.


A Changing World was hosted at Lower Hutt Events Centre on 28-29 June. It was scheduled earlier than usual to avoid coinciding with the general election campaign. The conference had 171 registered attendees, including delegates and sponsors.

Attendance was lower than in 2022 (approximately 220 attendees). We attribute this to the earlier time of year, competition from other transport-related conferences (including Wood Processors and New Zealand Groundspreaders), and limited Transporting New Zealand in-house staff capacity to promote the event and attract sponsors.

We also heard from several transport operators and former sponsors that the constrained economic climate and short-staffing made it difficult to attend. At this point, it looks like the conference will cover its costs.

I am pleased with the delegate feedback I have received both directly and via our attendee survey. Our attendee survey from 2022 showed our audience wanted more technical and industry specific content, and we delivered on this in Lower Hutt. The 2023 survey results are largely positive, but also present some constructive suggestions for future events, particularly around the evening dinners.

Screenshots from the 2023 attendee survey


Conference highlights

We had 19 different speakers and panels over the two days, including individual keynote speakers (Katherine Rich and Phil O’Reilly), industry panels (risk, decarbonisation, and road safety), and TNZ specific events (the sector breakfast, industry issue update and chair Q&A). Many of the speaker’s presentations are available via Google Drive.

Katherine Rich, former Food and Grocery Council CEO, opened the conference by talking about the power of advocacy. Katherine helped grocery suppliers take on the supermarket duopoly, with the Food and Grocery Council being able to take on battles individual firms could not risk. Katherine spoke about associations being able to front when members cannot.  She also encouraged the road freight industry to unleash our “advocacy chutzpah” through presenting a united team, strength in numbers, and utilising the industry’s authenticity.

Members also got an entertaining political and economic update from both economist Cam Bagrie and Phil O’Reilly (former CE of BusinessNZ). The key message was to prepare for unprecedented uncertainty: “doing business is going to get fun again” as Bagrie optimistically put it. Phil’s Powerpoint is definitely worth a read.

There was a good range of presentations from government agencies including Waka Kotahi, Police, WorkSafe and the Hanga-Ora-Rau Workforce Development Council.

As a sidenote, I was unpleasantly surprised to hear from the Commercial Vehicle Safety Team (CVST) and Waka Kotahi that seat belt wearing compliance is dropping. We have already rolled out some awareness advertisements in Dispatch and Transporting News.

Conference also provided a good opportunity to share Transporting New Zealand’s wins for the year. Our regional and sector team provided sector group updates on the first morning.

Deliverables for the Green Compact, Road to Success and Driving Change Diversity were also presented. It was also great to acknowledge those operators who have partnered with us on industry projects. This includes the Alternative Fatigue Management System Trial, those piloting low emission vehicles and efficient logistics technology, and the Sideloader Good Practice Guide, just to name three. Our members volunteer a lot of time to improving industry outcomes, and achieve great results.

The rowdiest event was definitely the political panel, where National, Act, New Zealand First, Greens and Labour were asked the hard questions by MC and political pundit Josie Pagani. The debate highlighted it is going to be a big election for transport issues.

ACT and National are clearly committed to substantial roading improvements – both repeatedly referred to building four lane highways and the Roads of National Significance programme. Labour and the Greens were more focussed on maintaining the existing network, along with hot-spot safety improvements and speed management.

It was also interesting to hear what the parties agree on: all parties but Labour support the restructuring of Waka Kotahi into more specialised organisations or sections. Despite the best efforts of their staff, Waka Kotahi is trying to do too much, and falling short. Their senior management will have received that message fair and square from Conference.

The political panel also made it clear this is a Fair Pay Agreements Act election. Paul Mackay from Business New Zealand made this point later on during the second day. Unless the legislation is repealed by National and ACT, New Zealand is heading back to the days of industry awards and collective negotiation.

While the road freight industry is not in the first wave of Fair Pay Agreement applications, we operate close to sectors that are. This includes bus and coach companies, supermarket and grocery, and waterside workers. If Labour is returned, Transporting New Zealand and the wider industry will need to start active preparations.

Speaking of industry reform, the conference concluded with Warwick making the case for “one team, one dream” for road freight advocacy. It is hard to find anyone who thinks New Zealand needs to have three national road freight associations, and the Transporting New Zealand board is openly calling for one united entity.

These discussions or negotiations need to happen at a board level. Warwick encouraged members, sponsors and stakeholders to support upcoming efforts to get “one team” underway.

Industry awards evening

The closing event, and a personal highlight for me, was our Industry Awards Dinner.

Our six award winners were:

  • VTNZ Supreme Contribution to New Zealand Road Transport Award: HW Richardson Group.
  • EROAD Limited Young Driver of the Year Award: Mackenzie Lintern.
  • EROAD Outstanding Contribution to Health and Safety Award: Tania Breach of Clive Taylor Haulage Ltd.
  • Hanga-Aro-Rau Workforce Development Council Outstanding Contribution to Training Award: Booth’s Logistics.
  • Teletrac Navman New Zealand Women in Road Transport: Verna Niao, the executive director MITO Te Pūkenga.
  • Fruehauf Outstanding Contribution to Innovation Award: CR Grace, Martinborough Transport Ltd and Stephenson Transport Limited (joint winners).

Transporting New Zealand’s 2023 Award Winners

It was particularly encouraging to see a diverse group of winners. I encourage all board and executive members to keep award nominations in mind heading into 2024, so that we can continue to have a strong selection of candidates for each category. We can accept nominations at any time.

Next steps and feedback

In the next few months, the Transporting New Zealand staff and board will be considering:

  1. How to build on the enthusiasm and good will about Transporting New Zealand’s sector groups evident at conference.
  2. Whether the frequency and format of our annual conference is still working for members and sponsors.
  3. How to increase attendance and revenue at subsequent events.
  4. Incorporating any feedback from this year’s conference into the Transporting New Zealand North Island Freight Summit in October 2023, and any subsequent South Island event.

Transporting New Zealand welcomes feedback from all members about the conference, including from those who did not attend. You can contact me or another team member directly, or pass feedback on to your Transporting New Zealand board representative