We now live in risk-averse times, where individual accountability seems to have been delegated to the community. Climb a ladder and it appears that the world is watching and expressing thoughts on the perceived risks! It’s rather hard to avoid now, with laws setting out who gets the blame for incidents that harm individuals. For that reason, organisations like the Department of Conservation ( DOC) have taken what could be seen by some as extreme and pedantic measures to avoid risks. A typical example is that of chainsaw use on DOC managed public land ( it’s actually illegal to have a chainsaw in a vehicle on DOC lands without permission). So, how do you get permission to use a chainsaw on DOC estate? There is formal external training to start with and that is to at least the ‘Unit Standards’ 6916 and 6917, along with needing a current First Aid certificate. Those are followed by a ‘competency’ assessment over several hours of observation by a qualified assessor. A rough tally of the costs of those processes with Unit Standard training over two days at around $ 500, First Aid training over one day $ 150 and a competency assessment over another day at $ 150 plus, means you’d be coughing up almost $ 1000 just to wield a chainsaw. It seems that the risks of using a chainsaw are primarily to the operator, with the cutting bar never more than an arm’s length from one’s body and limbs. On that basis, it is noted that currently, the use of a cutting bar on a pole ( a pole saw) is not regulated, but sources tell me that some rules are imminent. A calculated guess suggests that such rules would follow the pattern of those applied to scrub-bars/ brush cutters, with their rotating cutting blades on a shaft. Again, the blade is away from the operator, but a new risk is to other people who might move into the area around a machine operator. The current DOC Health and Safety requirement is for intending operators to complete a ‘self-assessment’ form and then undertake an observed competency assessment by a qualified person. Of course, a part of the ‘competency’ is to be kitted out in the appropriate personal protection equipment ( PPE). The paper work around the use of scrub-bars can be found on the website www. friendsof42traverse.nz Once you’ve been approved as competent, you then become a ‘qualified person’. There are of course other cutting tools for tree branches etc. that include manual saws such as bow saws and pruning saws. The advent of effective batteries has even made the reciprocating saw a viable option for cutting branches and I suspect that DOC probably don’t yet have rules around those. We may just have to reconcile ourselves to not having the use of chainsaws on DOC estate! Continuing on the theme of DOC; during September they put forward a ‘ discussion’ draft for “Standards for 4WD roads on public conservation lands”. The DOC explanation stated in part “Department of Conservation is wanting to know what 4WD enthusiasts want when they are using suitable DOC roads on public conservation land. DOC’s roads were inspected in 2016 by Opus and we are now in the process of developing what we call “service standards” for the roads, including roads that are suitable only for 4WD vehicles. These have been classified “limited access – 4WD” as part of the country’s One Network Road Classification.” In the draft they had identified two categories of 4WD use of roads classified “Limited access – 4WD”: 4WD recreation” – these cater primarily for visitors wanting a 4WD recreation experience on public conservation land. They may be with a club or group or travelling in a single vehicle and are looking for a driving experience in isolated backcountry locations. While these people are the primary users, the roads may also provide a recreation opportunity for mountainbikers, horse riders, motor bikers, off-road bikers, LUV users, walkers and trampers. 4WD other” – these cater for visitors, DOC staff and others who want access to or through public conservation land and the road is currently in a condition that makes it suitable only for those using 4WD vehicles. In many cases, “4WD standard” is not the ideal, as it restricts the numbers of people and types of vehicle that can safely use the road. The consultation draft went to several 4WD groups for
comments, that were requested to be provided to DOC by 12 October. It will be interesting to follow the progress and see if those responses to the draft make a difference. Will DOC accept changes to their proposal to limit gradients as proposed, although there is recognition that steeper may still be allowed? Maximum gradient:
4WD Recreation – No more than 18 degrees ( 32.5 percent or 1: 3.1) where there is also a lack of “grippiness” of the surface in normal weather conditions
4WD Other – No more than 15 degrees ( 26.8 percent or 1: 3.7) where there is also a lack of “grippiness” of the surface in normal weather conditions. Note: The likely impact on conservation values will be considered before a decision is made to apply the maximum gradient standards where a section of the road exceeds the maximum. Where it is decided that standards are not met, previsit and on-site information to prospective road users will be sufficient to ensure they understand the lower standard of the road before they embark on their trip. If the concept opens more access to DOC managed lands, then maybe our recreation might have to accept some limitations in the interest of sustainability of those routes, rather than losing access entirely.