We have had some high-profile demonstrations over the past couple of weeks, of various sector groups claiming parts of the road and demonstrating the respective freedoms that our democracy affords.
First we had Auckland cyclists claiming what they consider to be, their right to a harbour bridge lane and defying the police in the process.
Then, last week, we saw the motorcycle gangs somehow get together and ride their bikes in celebration of the life of a fallen mate, but also making a visual statement about their right to the road, so long as they keep within the law.
Finally last week, farmers descended on Mystery Creek and bought up large the ubiquitous ute, which they were told would cost them eight grand more come January.
Farmers have been put through the wringer as part of the climate change furore, and perhaps this buy-up is a reflection of them saying," if some climate change issue is the cost of our leading the country to prosperity, then so be it- electric utes are not yet on the horizon".
We have certainly had some political statements over the past couple of weeks that clearly reflect the Government's determination to make decarbonisation of our transport system its nuclear-free moment.
Some major roading projects, for which funding had been confirmed, have been cancelled. Our four-lane highway from Whangārei to Marsden Point had been widely consulted and looked set to go. The waste of time and money and likely economic impact with its cancellation, have made our politicians decidedly grumpy.
Perhaps, though, we should reflect that in its place the rail link to Marsden Point is confirmed. We should celebrate that this will be the only new piece of railway line built in decades and that the commercial potential for Auckland-Northland port rationalisation should become a reality with trucks being taken off the road.
The "freebate" scheme has been rejuvenated. This incentivises the purchase of electric cars against an extra cost for carbon-fuelled vehicles. The practicalities and respective merits of this will be continually debated, but farmers are making their own statements.
In all of this talk about decarbonisation and modal shift, what seems to have been lost is how much impact the car makes on our lives. Despite the best efforts of the public transport sector, there is no way that public transport will replace the sheer pleasure and convenience that our private cars afford us.
A quick glance at the recently consulted Northland Public Transport Plan confirms how challenging public transport is in Northland. The Whangārei bus service has stubbornly hovered around 300,000 passengers a year for the past eight years, despite a 25 per cent increase in population during that time.
Fare revenue recovered has fallen 30 per cent over the past eight years as the cost of the contract has increased by the same 30 per cent. The service is an increasing burden on the Whangārei ratepayer with a decreasing relative benefit.
The problems are pretty obvious. The Rose St terminal is no longer fit for purpose with security issues and is looking shabby. There are continual issues with timetables, patronage, and appropriate ticketing and pricing. A cheap bus fare does not compete with the moderate cost of all-day parking.
Despite the issues, the Whangārei plan involves trialling dedicated bus lanes on already- congested peak-hour roads next year, and the thought of park-and-ride areas is somewhere down the track.
To its credit, Northland Regional Council is trying hard and is trialling regional bus services throughout the North. The issues are high operating costs, low passenger numbers and creating an affordable fare.
But they are up against it. The car for us provides convenience, security, freedom, pleasure of driving and an expression of our personality. Our cars and utes are the only viable transport options allowing us to enjoy the pleasures of living and working in Northland.
• John Williamson is chairman of Roadsafe Northland and Northland Road Safety Trust, a former national councillor for NZ Automobile Association and former Whangārei District Council member.