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Contractors copping barrier road rage

Rural contractors at a three-day Rural Contractors New Zealand [RCNZ] conference that finishes today in Masterton have expressed concerns about road safety.

RCNZ chief executive Andrew Olsen said the concerns raised are around median barriers being installed on roads without proper consultation with rural road users.

“Rural roading is a major issue, whether it’s the state of the roads rurally or whether it’s the now emerging issue around medium barriers,” he said.

The barriers, which are not exclusive to Wairarapa, provide vehicles with nowhere to pull over or slow down and mean Wairarapa rural contractors who are using slow-moving machinery have to drive 8km runs on SH2.

This results in contractors “getting abuse thrown at them” from other road users, which no one needs in their workplace, Olsen said.

“We support reducing the road toll but giving rural contractors no capacity to pull over for kilometres at a time is actually adding to the risk of fatalities.

“It’s not the biggest issue confronting us, but it’s a really visible one.”

RCNZ represents 30 Wairarapa organisations – from big household names to small ones – that play important roles in the community, and has 600 members in total, Olsen said.

In a speech at the conference’s opening on Tuesday, Associate Agriculture Minister Andrew Hoggard noted that there are a lot of tractors shifting in and out of paddocks, and “motorists are getting angry as a result”.

“There’s lots of screaming, fingers out the windows and potentially stupid decisions being made,” he said.

Rural contractors deserve to be listened to on safety issues created by new roading developments that don’t allow motorists to pass slow-moving vehicles.”

When Hoggard was questioned about supporting signage alerting motorists of agricultural activity zones and the need to drive safely, he said he is wary about the cost of NZTA signage but promised to raise the issue with transport minister Simeon Brown.

Hoggard also told the conference that the government will soon make announcements on the future of freshwater farm plans, and observed it is important that councils and farmers can have confidence in the robustness of freshwater farm plans.

The previous government introduced the requirement for the plans, and farmers had 18 months from the commencement date to submit a freshwater farm plan for certification.

Hoggard said there has been a lot of confusion on what is required, and he does not want people wasting money on such plans until the government is sure they can work.

“As far as I am concerned everything must be working properly before we go live on this,” he said.

“It will make the farmers’ life a hell of a lot easier… There will be news on this soon.”

Wairarapa-based Clinton Carroll, who has been named as RCNZ’s new president at the conference, said 200 people are attending over the three days, which is a “great turnout”.

Carroll, who has already served as the organisation’s vice president and runs Wairarapa Weedsprayers, was elected by the RCNZ board to replace the Waikato’s Helen Slattery, who had stood down after three years.

He described his election as “a little bit nerve-wracking”, although he is “really looking forward” to getting stuck into the role.

Three new board members – Gordon Brown [Taupō], Alistair Kalin [Taranaki], and David Molloy [Canterbury] were also elected.

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