'Unacceptable' port delays hit hard at Invercargill bike shop

From Checkpoint, 5:40 pm on 2 December 2020

The wheels have fallen off for a South Island cycle shop that has almost run out of children's bikes ahead of Christmas due to the freight gnarl up at Ports of Auckland. 

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Photo: 123rf.com

Invercargill's Wensley Cycles owner Rob McMurdo says for the first time its 75-year history the shop will not have new kids' bicycles on the shop floor, and they have been calling customers to tell them their orders are unlikely to make it in time for 25 December. 

The beleaguered Ports of Auckland is already under fire for major delays in clearing a backlog of cargo, and this week suspended its automated carriers that unload containers after one robot went rogue and crashed.  

McMurdo told Checkpoint the delays were unacceptable.  

"It's just supply, and you don't mind when it's the whole Covid-19 thing and factories overseas shutting down, starting back up and being behind, but when it's us it's a bit frustrating.  

"Auckland Harbour - whoever is in charge of that. We've got boats sitting out on the Hauraki Gulf, waiting to be docked and unloaded ... and I don't think we're the only industry in that position, there's quite a few. So it's very frustrating. 

"Luckily we've got some very good understanding customers that I've built up over the years, and we're working through it quite well. But I just wish some of these bigger companies would behave the same, and remember who they're working for as a country. 

"I've been here just short of 40 years, I'm just totally disappointed ... we're 75 years young this year and this is the first time ever that I am aware of that we haven't had kids' bikes for Christmas, which is in my mind, unacceptable. 

He said they would just have to accept it and work around it. 

"But it's tradition - make hay while the sun shines and we're not able to. That's the frustrating thing about it, we've got to take a bit of fat on for our winter months because it's quite seasonal," McMurdo said.  

"Living in Invercargill, I don't want to go on about weather but sometimes it isn't great. It doesn't turn people on to ride in gale force winds and rain, so summer is the time to sell bikes… and that's not happening." 

The best the shop could do for most bikes is to take orders, he said. 

"I've just spent all morning ringing customers and telling them the bad news that their kid's bike and mountain bikes aren't going to be here till after Christmas. 

"It's quite hard, but on the whole people are very understanding. Unless you've been living under a rock for the last six months, you know what's happening out there and it's hard." 

In a statement, Ports of Auckland said: "We would like to apologise for any delays we have caused. Covid-19 has caused all sorts of disruption this year and that includes to import volumes, import demand patterns and to our ability to handle freight. Our staff are working as hard as they safely can to get through the backlog and we are hiring more people to help with the workload." 

McMurdo said the port was making it harder. 

"It's just unacceptable." 

The shop only has a handful of bikes on the floor, he said, and no 24-inch or 20-inch geared bikes for children.  

"We're a month out, and it's crazy, it's just crazy, stupid."  

He has not had any direct conversations with Ports of Auckland but has been told through suppliers it is running at 50 percent capacity.  

McMurdo blames overregulation and a lack of a number-8-wire attitude to finding a solution. 

"It's shiny bums sitting on seats, they don't care, someone else will do it ... I just can't believe the government's just sitting down and letting it happen.

"I've just had to ring around 30, 40 people this morning to tell them what's happening. Why can't they do the same? They're hurting everybody's business, and it's frustrating."