John Vujcich: Vision-driven action required for Far North council

John Vujcich
John Vujcich

Central government gives FNDC about 60 per cent towards roads, but also influences roading priorities. It is frustrating that in the past health hasn't been given the priority that I believe it deserves.

There is a Japanese proverb: Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.

When I read that 'Road dust angers residents' on Ruaroa Rd, I too am angered and frustrated, and wonder how this nightmare was created. Dust is a health issue, particularly the smaller particles.

Particulate matter less than 10 microns, PM10, and less than 2.5 microns, PM2.5, easily enters the lungs, aggravating asthma, respiratory symptoms, and increasing hospital admissions. By way of comparison, a human hair is about 100 microns. With long-term exposure there is increased risk of lung cancer and cardiopulmonary mortality. These health risks are well documented worldwide.

Central government gives FNDC about 60 per cent towards roads, but also influences roading priorities. It is frustrating that in the past health hasn't been given the priority that I believe it deserves. There are indications that this may be changing with the new Government, and they do seem to be focused on problems associated with smaller and poorer communities.

But what angers me the most is many of our problems have been decades in the making, and we have no one to blame but ourselves. For example, many councillors heard a presentation by a school bus driver describing the appalling condition of Diggers' Valley Rd. It was simply not designed to carry the logging traffic that it is now subjected to, and what appears to be minimal maintenance. When the trees were planted 20-plus years ago it would not have taken much imagination to very accurately predict future traffic.

Then there is West Coast Rd, in the North Hokianga, used daily by logging trucks, school buses and locals, where significant slips are still in need of repair. The same road is subjected to flooding near Panguru School, resulting in pupils losing more than 30 days of school a year. This is not acceptable. These are the roads that are generally creating the majority of wealth for New Zealand.

We need a very clear vision that will ensure each person and community is treated fairly and equitably. We also need a long-term strategy with clear milestones that achieve the overall goals for each community, and every decision must show how it helps achieve these outcomes. Only then can we avoid arbitrary, reactive decision-making focusing on isolated issues or political whims.

Clearly this cannot be done in isolation, and must align with iwi and hapu goals, community goals, business requirements and government goals. That means meaningful engagement with all these groups, and actively involving them in decision-making.

Most importantly, it also means taking action based on the vision that delivers measurable results and hopefully avoids future nightmares.

- Northland Age

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