Once I published Making Rail Work, it is unsurprising that most of the responses I got were from former colleagues and associates in Europe and outside of New Zealand. I had intentionally not made a name for myself in terms of politics in this country. Although, I had dabbled with a few social impact projects to see if they resonated in Tauranga specifically.
Susan Trodden was a great source of advice and guidance, and the report seemed to give her and the T.R.O.N. movement a new lease of life. When I reached out to Michael van Drogenbroek the momentum took off. He was full of ideas but seemed to lack a bit of patience with the political system. My insights seemed to plug that gap and, together, the three of us hatched a plan.
For all of those who contributed to the proposal, everyone agreed that is was a multi-generational project, which needs a multi-generational mindset, something that New Zealand is not used to delivering. As a country, we are constrained by the constant electioneering cycle, which is why decisions must be based on short term results and impacts. Not one of them defended the practice, most apologised, and chastised it.
With the evidence in hand, and a significant amount of local community feedback under our belts, I approached the Transport Minister’s office to see if I could figure out why these apparent conflicts perpetuate and prevent us from enhancing the lives of all Kiwis. I also sent a copy of the report to all Political Parties and political leaders on the line of route.
At the same time, Michael and I reached out to local and regional councils in Waikato and the Bay of Plenty. There were obvious disconnects in regional strategies, but with the Transport Strategy consultation coming up, we had time to plan.
The result was an avalanche of questions and enquiries. It made me realise just how eager this country is for finding a different way of doing things.
We asked the Minister if he would host a Cross Party Meeting, which he agreed to. However, he then received the Immigration portfolio, so Greg O’Connor MP stepped into host.
Our idea was to ask for a regular Cross-Party meeting… instead, with Greg O’Connor’s leadership, we found ourselves with a Select Committee Inquiry into Inter-regional Passenger that covered the whole country!
Others had clearly stoked the fires of debate and laid the tracks for us, but we were delighted to tip it over the edge and trigger a new stage of this journey.