Se­lect the right tool and use it safely

Matamata Chronicle - - Rural Delivery - By JAMES HOUGHTON

There has been a huge amount of dis­cus­sion around quad bikes again, af­ter LandCorp an­nounced they are not us­ing them on their new North Is­land farms and will be mov­ing away from them on all other op­er­a­tions.

Cer­tainly, hav­ing 20 ac­ci­dents in­volv­ing their staff and quad bikes since De­cem­ber is a sober­ing statistic. Per­haps for large cor­po­rate farm­ers, with huge num­bers of staff to think about, look­ing at other op­tions is a sen­si­ble so­lu­tion.

Just be­cause LandCorp does some­thing it doesn’t mean all farm­ers have to fol­low suit but it is good to fol­low the dis­cus­sion and know what the op­tions are. Many farm­ers seem to be mov­ing to­wards the ‘‘side by side’’ or farm util­ity ve­hi­cle op­tions for get­ting about on their farms be­cause they al­low for pas­sen­gers, car­ry­ing loads and do not re­quire a hel­met.

Within this cat­e­gory there are again many op­tions. It is about look­ing at the needs you have on your farm, se­lect­ing the best tool for the job and mak­ing sure ev­ery­one us­ing them is trained to op­er­ate that tool safely. There will al­ways be an el­e­ment of hu­man er­ror but by fol­low­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers’ and train­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions’ guide­lines we can re­duce the risks. It is also im­por­tant that we work with man­u­fac­tur­ers to con­tinue im­prove­ments of quad bike de­signs and adopt­ing tech­nolo­gies to con­tinue to make the way we farm safer. The prin­ci­ple of preven­tion through de­sign is im­por­tant.

Coun­cils’ an­nual plan pro­cesses have pro­gressed to hear­ings and Fed­er­ated Farm­ers is fol­low­ing up on the sub­mis­sions we have made ear­lier in the year.

Many coun­cils still have not learnt the im­por­tance of liv­ing within their means. De­spite cen­tral govern­ment scru­ti­n­is­ing their per­for­mance and warn­ing them to keep debt and ex­penses down, there are far too many nice-to-haves in many coun­cil bud­gets. Coun­cil rates con­tinue to in­crease around 1 per cent to 2 per cent above the con­sumer price in­dex.

This is not sus­tain­able. Will we even­tu­ally see a sit­u­a­tion where peo­ple pay 50 per cent of their in­come in rates? Al­ready rates for some farm­ers are un­re­al­is­ti­cally above their abil­ity to pay and bear no re­la­tion to ser­vices re­ceived.

Even if farm­ers were con­nected up, the most state of the art sewer in the world is of no use if you can­not af­ford to put food on the ta­ble.

There are too many ‘‘warm-fuzzy’’ projects on coun­cils’ plans – the ques­tion is who will pay for them? At the mo­ment some peo­ple are pay­ing a lot more than oth­ers.

Democ­racy might be ‘‘one per­son, one vote, one voice’’, but we also need to spread coun­cil costs fairly and eq­ui­tably, not just suck them out of the gen­eral rate. The cost of democ­racy must be evenly shared across all ratepay­ers which is best done out of uni­form an­nual gen­eral charges.

A re­minder has come through from NAIT about check­ing and treat­ing all new or mov­ing cat­tle for ticks be­fore they join your herd or ar­rive at a new prop­erty be­cause of high lev­els of in­fec­tions of the tick-borne blood par­a­site, thei­le­ria.

If you have cows which are not eat­ing, seem de­pressed, not as healthy as they ought to be and lag be­hind or lie down when you shift a mob, they may be af­fected. There are no known treat­ments, so preven­tion is key.

An­other dan­ger to be aware of is the pos­si­bil­ity of ni­trate buildup in the grass if the cur­rent ex­cep­tional growth rates, com­bined with low sun­shine hours, con­tin­ues. This could be a cloud on the sil­ver lin­ing fol­low­ing the drought.

The last of the Fed­er­ated Farm­ers-or­gan­ised stock feed ship­ments be­tween the South Is­land and Tau­ranga ar­rived last week, al­though Hawke’s Bay will con­tinue to re­ceive ship­ments.

This op­er­a­tion would never have got off the ground if not been for the gen­eros­ity and good­will of Paci­fica Ship­ping and the Port of Tau­ranga in al­low­ing us to use their ships and wharves at some knock-down rates.

With­out this help the feed ship­ments would never have been com­mer­cially vi­able.

Con­grat­u­la­tions to yet an­other lo­cal farmer, Tim van de Molen, win­ning the Young Farmer of the Year.

James Houghton

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