Can't see the wood for the trees. Photo: Pat Scala
Compare the amount of money spent on planning with the money spent on actually doing anything.
The road to Akuna Bay in Ku-ring-gai National park offers a classic example. Here a new approach to the costly problem of maintaining the roads has been adopted. Some five or six years ago, administrators adopted a policy of rigorous documentation of the defects in the road. A team was hired to note and annotate all road defects using their own code to indicate a possible solution to the defect. Using white paint, potholes were circled, edges were highlighted and cryptic notations such as “scrape”, “rough”, “broken”, “micro” etc. were painted on the road. Road users experienced a rare feeling of hope. This excellent work was accepted by the responsible arm of government and presumably the “white” team paid handsomely. The report was carefully filed.
Several years later, the white team's markings had largely faded. Those responsible for initiating the white team report felt it was so successful that a “pink” team was hired and given the same brief. The pink team was very energetic outlining potholes, extensively marking the edges of the road (which had by this stage decayed much further) with luminous pink paint and like the white team they used secret code to indicate the magnitude of the decay and possible solutions. Words such as large, scrape, chip, and doc again were everywhere. The pink team submitted their report and because of the greater workload of annotating the more extensive decay it would be surprising if they did not receive a bonus. Their report was also carefully filed. Two years on and the pink markings had almost completely faded but by now the procedure for addressing the ever-decaying road was very clear and a blue team was recruited and put to work. This enthusiastic blue group not only outlined what had become by now a far greater number of potholes and cracked edges and water erosion but they made very impressive use of right angle lines incorporating arrows which pointed in secret directions. Their code was more cryptic, and
one can only assume the arrows point to the appropriate solution to halting the ongoing decay.
But as we write, the white team has been re-hired, and the process begun again. And given the success of this approach, why wouldn't one re-hire them? This method of handling road repair has been shown to be very cost-effective and far cheaper than traditional repair methods involving removing material, improving the underlying foundations, and applying a thick bitumen seal. Meanwhile, we road users have become resigned to the fact that it is the paint on the road which is holding it all together.
Michael Perry & Warren King