I was a Board member of Land Transport Board. An application came to the Board from Auckland Transport to fund integrated ticketing cards for Auckland Transport. Pam and I had just been in Hong Kong and had used the same sort of card there and it was brilliant. I asked the Board to consider the Auckland card becoming the model for the rest of the Country. I argued that next we would have Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin all wanting their own systems. We are a small country and we only need one system. Not 5.
This idea was taken away by staff and Auckland Transport agreed to this happening. The staff came back and said that it was an excellent idea and that Auckland Transport had agreed to it being the pilot for the whole country.
I then moved with the change in structures with transport and became the Deputy Chair of New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA). I took a personal interest in this project as there was much political manoeuvring over this project. Essentially the only system in NZ was that operated by Infratil in Wellington and Auckland. It was called “Snapper”. I was horrified how people were being lobbied, wined and dined in key places.
An integrated system is useless unless it gives vital data about where people get on and off. Which routes work, and when etc. The Snapper system is essentially a credit card. It was only in Korea and nowhere else. It supplies information on how much people spend and encourages them to use the card to purchase coffee, etc. It is useless as a source of information for in depth transport planning.
I sat at the table and kept a close interest on how the tendering process was going. It was kept pure, despite much political interference. Eventually the Tales system from France was adopted. This system has been implemented across the world. I remember the guy who had been brought into NZTA to manage the process coming up to me after the Board had decided to support this system, and saying to me that I had kept it honest by being so vigilant. That’s the role of governance.
This week Newsroom carried a report from Deloitte on the total failure by NZTA to keep up with the necessary investment for integrated ticketing in NZ. The rot started in 2016 as NZTA seemed to become distracted by a series of poor decisions. Now everything is a mess. The current Minister has been forced to sack the whole board and start again. This is an example of the previous Minister, Simon Bridges, dropping the ball, possibly being obsessed with reducing costs, and now look what has happened. The world has moved on and instead of having the capacity to handle the challenge of managing this decision, which they sure had when I was on the Board, it has turned into a disaster. The agency is so down on its knees they have had to bring in one of the big four consultancies, Deloittes, which is another slight on the public sector.
Here’s the Deloitte report which does not make pretty reading.