Saturday, February 17, 2024

Kerre Woodham: When ideology collides with the real world

I can't help but enjoy the rich irony.

NIWA, the Crown owned weather research institute, has had a big spend up on its vehicle fleet. Four big, grunty Chevy Silverados to be exact - 2024 models, apparently judging by the regos, retailing to you and to me for around $ 172K.

Although I have no doubt that NIWA managed to squeeze that down a bit —I hope they did, I hope they negotiated— the utes were bought despite the fact that the government is currently trying to reduce the emissions from all the vehicles it owns.

Agencies must purchase battery EV's, or if they're not suitable, a plug-in hybrid. If neither of those are suitable, the agency's chief executive has the ability to sign off on a different vehicle. Mainly an ICE vehicle.

NIWA is a Crown-owned enterprise, so it isn't bound by these rules, but according to the protocol, it must have regard for the rules. NIWA’s chief executive John Morgan signed off on the purchases being necessary given the weight of the boats the cars will be towing.

“We investigated all the options in the market,” he said. “There was no viable alternative to the Silverado's given the weight of the boats they'll be towing. We test drove a wide range of trucks, large and mid-sized Utes in a variety of real-world driving conditions to determine what was going to be the most suitable and safest for our staff. There are no Bev or PHV options available that can perform the role required.”

No, and I think that's the point. I would have no problem with this at all if it weren't for the virtue signalling. It's not just virtue signalling, but real-life implications for real-life businesses.

Remember when we were talking about the greenhouse auditing that the banks are requiring of their customers? Several New Zealand banks have pledged to ensure their investment and lending portfolios are aligned to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Banks are ‘helping’ (which is a loaded word) business customers reach for net zero with lower interest rates for hitting sustainability targets and by helping firms with transition plans. So what that means, and what businesses told us was happening, was that when they apply for a loan or when every year they must reply to their bank.

What are you doing to offset your emissions within your business? How are you reducing your impact on the environment? You have to show your commitment or risk financial penalties. You get threatened with higher interest rates on loans or no loans at all. Farmers know all about that. If you're not performing, Fonterra won't pick up your milk. If you are not committed to reducing your greenhouse gas emissions as much as you possibly can, there are real world financial penalties.

We had the owner of a transport firm ringing when we were discussing this. He wanted a loan to buy a new truck. Whoever was on the end of the phone is committed to changing the world, obviously, but probably hasn't driven a truck before, said, well, have you looked at an electric truck? And he said yes, I have. I'm not a Neanderthal. (Of course, he didn't say that I'm exaggerating). But he said, you know. Yes, I have looked at alternatives, but there is nothing on the market at the moment that is going to be able to do the job I need.

Well, you better start looking further afield because there's going to be higher interest rates if you are committed to ICE engines in the future. You know, if you want a loan, hmmm, there may well be higher interest rates in the in the next couple of years.

So there are real world implications for people who have no alternative. Blind ideology and desire do not create vehicles fit for purpose. Just wanting them to work doesn't make them so.

So, there's NIWA with its noble mission statement on its website: “The challenges of reducing our national greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to a changing climate are hugely important and affect all New Zealanders.” What they mean is except us, because we need big grunty ships to tow our boats! And they do. And setting aside the emissions from a big grunty Chev, what about the cost when the public service is being squeezed so hard, the pips are squeaking?

A Chevy Silverado goes for $172K, a Ford Ranger goes for $90K and I've seen plenty of Ford Rangers pulling big boats heading north over summer. Can a Ford Ranger not tow NIWA’s boats? It's just the disconnect between the real world and ideology.

If NIWA have test driven all these different utes and said these are the vehicles we need to do the job, fine. But at the same time, they said these are the vehicles we need to do the job because there are no alternatives. But then private business should be able to say that too and not be quizzed by their banks, and not have to do a greenhouse audit when the alternative doesn't exist yet.

DOC’s the same. Remember that lovely conservation worker who left. They were choppering in coal to the camper’s huts. You could not use the wood that had fallen over in a storm for the heaters and the cookers within the huts, you had to chopper in bloody coal.

When ideology collides with the real world, it makes for a hell of a splat. NIWA and DOC and the like, banging on about climate change, and rightly so, but they're not walking the talk because they can't. The technology they need doesn't exist yet, and they need to realise, and the government needs to realise, and the ideologs need to realise, and the Green Party needs to realise, that it's the same for the poor grunts who are trying to run their businesses, and pay their taxes that pay for these bloody utes.

Sure, encourage people to transition into environmentally friendly alternatives when there are alternatives. But don't you dare punish people when they simply do not have a choice.

Kerre McIvor, is a journalist, radio presenter, author and columnist. Currently hosts the Kerre Woodham mornings show on Newstalk ZB - where this article was sourced.


Anonymous said...

Nope, a ranger would not do the job safely or legally. It only has a tow capacity of 2500kg. The Silverado is 3500kg.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Mr Smith should add NIWA to his court case on those destroying the planet. It is pointless doing research if you destroy the thing you are researching in the process.

CXH said...

Anon - perhaps NIWA could have smaller boats with less carbon emissions than the monsters they believe they need.

kruger said...

If the government is looking to save money they could start by merging Metservice & NIWA. Taxpayers should not be forced to fund 2 weather forecasting organisations.