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Worrying rise in wandering stock

Concerns have been mounting over increased reports of livestock on the loose in the region, given the potential havoc they can create for drivers.

Masterton District Council [MDC] has confirmed it has noticed a rise in the number of reports of wandering stock it receives – with 23 reports made in February and March alone.

“Animals on roads present a significant safety risk for motorists, and there is the potential for serious injuries and even fatal crashes,” an MDC spokesperson said.

MDC councillor David Holmes said that livestock wandering on roads has “always been a concern” for rural areas, especially in and around towns, and noted that it’s traditionally more prevalent during or after dry summers when stock food is short on farms and abundant on roadsides.

But what has exacerbated the issue in Wairarapa recently, Holmes said, is major damage to farm fences that’s been caused by erosion and land movement on road boundaries and has permanently damaged some of them – especially in the Tīnui, Castlepoint, and Riversdale areas.

“The obvious solution is good fencing and keeping the roadside grazed which also helps the danger of fire,” he said.

“Farmers are very good at looking after each other and their stock, and are well aware of motorists having accidents hitting livestock on rural roads.

“Unfortunately, there are occasions where council staff are called, and there is a cost if the stock owner is a repeat offender.”

MDC environmental services manager Terri Mulligan said the reports have come in from across the district and include cases of stock wandering near SH2.

“Most are separate incidents, reported separately, and involved cows, sheep, deer and pigs,” she said.

“Where stock has been identified as belonging to a particular owner, and there are multiple instances of stock wandering or needing to be returned, owners can be invoiced for the costs, including staff time and stock carriers, if required.

“Ratepayers should not be footing this bill.”

Action has been taken to invoice an owner $1000 after their stock wandered for successive days, Mulligan noted, although “as the process has yet to be concluded, no further details will be made available”.

The increase in wandering stock could be attributed to
several reasons, she said.

“Last year’s weather events damaged a lot of fencing and land, potentially giving stock access to areas they shouldn’t be.

“The current dry conditions have made feed scarce in many places, potentially prompting stock to see feed outside their enclosed areas.

“If people are reporting wandering stock, a detailed description is very useful, including the number, type, colour, and any other identifying features of stock, and photos of the stock and nearby property fire numbers to assist in
locating the stock and owners.”

Mulligan acknowledged the issue is primarily one of road safety, and said it’s taken very seriously by MDC.

The Local Government Act 2002 requires adequate fencing to prevent grazing stock from wandering.

“The Wairarapa Consolidated Bylaw [Part 6 section 3.4] requires owners to keep animals caged or otherwise restrained within the boundaries of their private property,” Mulligan said.

“Owners of wandering stock can face criminal liability under the Crimes Act 1961 if livestock they own endangers the safety or health of the public, especially road users.

“If their stock causes a crash and negligence is proven, they may be prosecuted.

“Stock owners may be liable for damage caused to vehicles that result in insurance claims.”

A police spokesperson told the Times-Age, “There were around 50 calls to police in February and March reporting stock on Wairarapa roads”, although this figure is “likely to include multiple calls about the same incidents”.

Police encourage anyone who comes across wandering stock on the road to call 111, as it poses a significant risk to motorists.

    MDC encourages anyone spotting wandering stock to call Animal Services on 06 370 6300, or 06 378 7752 if outside normal office hours.


  1. Road safety could make farmers 🤔 😉 put Road cones on the animals 🤔 that should make it safer in this nanny state of driving. Farmers do their best to insure stock fencing is safe. Drivers must remember when driving on rural roads to pay attention 🙄? It’s not like driving in towns or cities 🤔.

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