Ru­ral con­tract­ing rules in tran­si­tion

Matamata Chronicle - - Sport -

Ru­ral con­trac­tors are be­ing urged to keep up to date with changes to reg­u­la­tions gov­ern­ing work hours and use of pub­lic high­ways in or­der to avoid fall­ing foul of the law.

New reg­u­la­tions started com­ing into force from June 1, but all the changes will not be in place un­til late 2014, ac­cord­ing to Ru­ral Con­trac­tors New Zealand board mem­ber Diane Pankhurst.

‘‘ It is quite con­fus­ing at the mo­ment for con­trac­tors and farm­ers as some of the old reg­u­la­tions still ap­ply, so there is mix of old and new at present,’’ she said.

Ms Pankhurst ad­vises farm­ers and con­trac­tors who are un­sure of the changes and which reg­u­la­tions have been changed and which have yet to change to visit ru­ral­con­trac­tors.org.nz.

One of the most im­por­tant changes which has come into force re­lates to how trac­tors are reg­is­tered.

‘‘Trac­tor own­ers have to de­cide if they want to reg­is­ter their trac­tors as be­ing able to travel at over 40kmh on pub­lic roads or not. If you opt for the for­mer, then in ef­fect your ve­hi­cle has to com­ply with rules and reg­u­la­tions which ap­ply to other road le­gal ve­hi­cles and re­quire the new sim­pli­fied war­rant of fit­ness for trac­tors. Driv­ers will also need a wheels en­dorse­ment on their driver’s li­cence.’’

Ms Pankhurst notes pre­vi­ously some heav­ier trac­tors needed to have a cer­tifi­cate of fit­ness, whereas now they just need a sim­pli­fied war­rant of fit­ness tai­lored for trac­tors.

De­spite the state of flux at present, she says in gen­eral con­trac­tors are wel­com­ing the over­all changes and the think­ing be­hind them.

‘‘It will make it eas­ier for con­trac­tors to get the likes of hay and silage cut and baled in as timely fash­ion as pos­si­ble.’’

She added the greater flex­i­bil­ity in work hours is par­tic­u­larly wel­come.

‘‘Con­trac­tors and farm­ers will no longer face the sit­u­a­tion of a con­trac­tor hav­ing to stop work be­cause they have ex­ceeded their work hours for the day, when per­haps the job could be com­pleted in another hour.

‘‘The con­trac­tor will no longer have to come back the next day or the next day when the weather is suit­able.’’

With the re­cent dam­ag­ing wind storms, Ms Pankhurst said farm­ers who are en­gag­ing con­trac­tors need to make sure pad­docks to be cut for hay and silage are not strewn with storm de­bris such as ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem parts which could dam­age con­trac­tors’ equip­ment.

‘‘If a mower hits some­thing it could eas­ily cause thou­sands of dol­lars worth of dam­age and of course will de­lay the mow­ing of the pad­dock for the farmer. We ad­vise farm­ers to iden­tify hazards in pad­docks if pos­si­ble so the con­trac­tor is aware where they are and can avoid those ar­eas.’’

Ms Pankhurst said farm­ers should at the very least con­tact the con­trac­tor to ad­vise them of pos­si­ble prob­lems be­fore they ar­rive to cut and bale hay or silage.

She said al­though at present farm­ers are not li­able for any dam­age which may oc­cur to a con­trac­tor’s equip­ment while op­er­at­ing on their prop­erty, insurance com­pa­nies are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly strin­gent in terms of pay­ing out on claims and could in the fu­ture seek li­a­bil­ity.

Another is­sue farm­ers need to be aware of is ac­cess to their prop­er­ties for mod­ern farm ma­chin­ery.

‘‘With mod­ern farm ma­chin­ery such as square balers get­ting big­ger we are find­ing 10-foot-wide gates are of­ten too nar­row to ac­com­mo­date our gear. We say to farm­ers that if they are in­stalling new gates they should aim for a min­i­mum of 14 feet wide, so all farm ma­chin­ery can be moved into and out of pad­docks.’’

‘‘It is also im­por­tant farm­ers keep path­ways clear of over­hang­ing trees or other ob­sta­cles too,’’ she added.

‘‘Con­trac­tors don’t like hav­ing equip­ment dam­aged just get­ting to and from pad­docks.’’

Another pos­si­ble fall­out from the wind storms which con­trac­tors and farm­ers should be aware of is the need to en­sure build­ings which house ma­chin­ery are fit for pur­pose.

Ms Pankhurst said while mod­ern build­ings have to meet the cur­rent build­ing code as re­gards to snow load­ing or abil­ity to cope with high winds, much older build­ings may not be up to the task.‘‘It may be worth­while for farm­ers and con­trac­tors with such struc­tures to get them strength­ened to avoid pos­si­ble dam­age to valu­able ma­chin­ery in the fu­ture.’’

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