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NZTA strikes a blow to NZ’s tech sector

03 Dec 2015

Today I read with disappointment in Stuff that Snapper, the kiwi developed contactless payment card used throughout the Wellington region, could end up being replaced with HOP, the contactless card used for public transport in in Auckland.

The Greater Wellington Regional Council is soon to open their public transport smart card contract up for tender. Given the deep penetration of Snapper throughout Wellington taxies, buses and convenience stores, you’d think that the sheer cost of migrating for Wellington businesses would figure prominently in any decision to migrate.

Sadly, this doesn’t appear to be the case. More concerning is the fact that according to the Stuff story, it appears that the NZTA wrote to the regional council stating its preference for the HOP system be taken up in Wellington. They also stated a preference for their own subsidiary company, New Zealand Transport Ticketing Limited, to provide the $50 million Wellington network, as it does in Auckland.

I don’t know about you, but such behaviour ahead of a tender by a government agency strikes me as being somewhat ethically dubious. Ethics aside, an obvious question is this: Why force Wellington to adopt what is clearly an inferior option, when Auckland could adopt one that is developed locally and offers a far more reliable and user friendly set of features?

As a Wellingtonian who had lived in Auckland for a number of years, I find it particularly galling that Auckland with its shambolic public transport system is telling Wellington (whose public transport has worked incredibly well for decades) how to suck eggs.

The Hop system has been (if numerous user forums are anything to go by) and still is plagued with problems. In fact the Hop system has been such a total dog, that it even warranted coverage in the consumer affairs programme, Fair Go.

Perhaps of most concern is the very ugly precedent this sets for our fledgling tech sector. Snapper is a kiwi business operated by Kiwis who’ve used local know-how to develop Snapper technology. Surely our public sector should be getting behind NZ’s tech sector?

The sad fact is that the wheels are already in motion and Snapper could soon become a casualty of shenanigans at the NZTA. Having the same ticketing system across NZ may lead to the NZTA making some savings, but have these savings been weighed against the cost of switching over?

Also who is it really benefitting? I‘d be willing to wager that a miniscule number of commuters would be frequent users of public transport in both Auckland and Wellington. The really annoying thing about this situation is that Snapper works perfectly while HOP appears to be a dysfunctional mess.

Surely the motto “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” should apply?

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