NZTA’s Disastrous App Experiments See Fiddling While People Die on the Roads . . And Lawyers Leave

NZTA's Disastrous App Experiments See Fiddling While People Die on the Roads . . And Lawyers Leave 3

Ructions at the New Zealand Transport Agency have impacted the legal team, including many from its Land Transport Rules Team and as a result of the Agency’s new focus on technology and its apparent aim to transform from a traditional transport funder and safety regulator to a digitised transport service provider.

NZTA's Disastrous App Experiments See Fiddling While People Die on the Roads . . And Lawyers Leave 4

The legal team at the agency commenced under the guidance of former Chief Executive Fergus Gammie, (left) the so-called “embattled” former CEO, who left the Agency in December 2018 and who oversaw the departure of around 600 people according to reports LawFuel has received. It is understood that he did not have a good relationship with former legal staff and their public law and transport focus.

The Agency oversaw disaster and record road deaths, including poor enforcement of transport regulations including the recall of almost 20,000 vehicles that needed re-testing for warrants of fitness while vehicle inspectors and others were suspended for sub-standard work.

Law firm Meredith Connell was appointed to oversee a review of 850 outstanding compliance files including a case where a Dargaville mechanic warranted a car which crashed a short time later killing a  passenger whose seat belt failed.

Under the Gammie reign and the seemingly hell-bent desire to transform the Agency into its new high tech format, lawyers left – and Meredith Connell moved in to help sort out the mess.

It was apparently Gammie’s belief that the Agency was obsolete in its nature and unable to adapt to the tech changes underway in the transport sector, including the rapid growth of electric vehicles, driverless cars and the like. Some of the tech-focused developments initiated at this time, such as Choice and RideMate have failed and since been withdrawn.

NZTA's Disastrous App Experiments See Fiddling While People Die on the Roads . . And Lawyers Leave 5

Much of this thinking has been developed by Martin McMullan, (right) former GM of Connected Journeys , who was a lead advisor on key issues relating to the Agency.

The almost $7 million spent on Connected Journeys Solutions Group and McMullen’s involvement in the debacle is the subject of a current audit by Deloittes.

An eample of the McMullan mindset may be seen in the video interview below –

The App fixation included reallocation of road safety works budgets and the much-loved apps, such as the Choice App launched with fanfare in Queenstown in 2016 by then Transport Minister Simon Bridges and since withdrawn.

The Agency regards changes to its legal team as being necessary to reflect its new focus on digital transformation, although its advertisements for new staff note:

“At the NZ Transport Agency, it all starts with our people. The organisation’s performance and success depends on the people who choose to make this a great place to work and make a difference for New Zealand. The Transport Agency has a strong future focus, understanding that new technologies and changing customer expectations mean the transport system we know today will not be the one we deliver in ten years’ time. The Legal Team is here to enable the Agency to meet its strategic objectives by providing
solution-focused legal advice and to help the Agency mitigate its legal risks.”

The lawyers, however, have largely left the building – certainly those who had a sound understanding of the very safety and regulatory issues needed by an Agency that has seen some of the sorriest and saddest times in New Zealand motoring history.

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