The orange revolution

Matt Burgess
Insights Newsletter
25 June, 2021

I am increasingly convinced that our impressive economic recovery from COVID is being led by orange cones.

The things are everywhere, clogging up our roads and cycleways and footpaths. Only rarely do these orange monstrosities seem to protect actual people doing actual work. It is as if the cones are there to stop somebody trying to get somewhere.

What explains the orange invasion of our town and cities?

Perhaps this is the government’s ambitious new climate change strategy. We will lower global emissions by channelling all of the world’s oil reserves into the production of road cones.

And I do mean all of the world’s reserves, judging from the mess on Thorndon Quay this morning.

Perhaps some poor soul at NZTA put an extra zero on the order form and now there is no more room at the storage depot. Rather than admit clerical error, the agency is randomly distributing cones across perfectly serviceable roads and even arranged trucks to turn up with flashing lights to seal the illusion that any of the cones are necessary.

I suppose the best explanation for all the cones is health and safety. Yet the cones seem to arrive weeks or months before the trucks and shovels. It is as if agencies feel the need to warm us up to the idea that the road will have to close at some point in the future by closing the road now. Brilliant.

Theft is a real problem for orange cones. That is because they can do so much more than cause traffic jams.

For example, club cricketers love orange cones. Forgot to pack the stumps for today’s game? No problem, use cones instead.

Or perhaps you’re next in to bat and realise to your horror you have forgotten your box. Again, no problem. Wear that cone with pride, brother. This is how much you love cricket.

At their current growth rate, I estimate orange cones will cover the entire country by January 2025. Unable to move, we will finally be completely safe.

It is hard not to see the metaphor in all those cones defending undug trenches and absent workers. They are a promise of future work, like a Beehive press release on mental health. The cones are safety for its own sake, safety in place of work and living.

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