Contractors Corner May 2017

Tough season has been a struggle
Steve Levet
It is fair to say that rural contractors – and farmers – right around the country have had a difficult and challenging season to contend with thanks to the weather.
In the north, it was very dry at the end of last year and at the beginning of 2017. This meant there was very little grass around to be made into supplementary feed. Then from about mid-February it has done nothing but rain – making it difficult to even get on paddocks.


In Northland, where I am based the rain has brought many problems with ground conditions now very wet. A lot of maize in low lying areas hasn't been harvested yet, as farmers wait for the ground to dry out. And this delay is holding up the re-grassing of paddocks.
In the lower North Island, spring was challenging and the summer has been wet, cold and windy. This has seen a delay to harvesting and next seasons plantings. However, the Hawkes Bay is now reporting very good autumn growth.
In Manawatu and Horowhenua contractors have been working around the clock in any breaks in the weather and when the ground is dry enough for machinery to go on it to harvest maize.
Meanwhile, the South Island has not escaped the weather challenges. The West Coast has seen a shockingly wet season with locals there claiming it the worst season since the 1960s.
In Canterbury, summer has been cold after a reasonably wet spring. While many in the region welcomed the rains, it did make things difficult for hay and silage making. Things dried out in January and February – helping with the grain harvest. However, since March heavy rains have made getting late crops in difficult with many still to be harvested.
In the south, contractors there too have experienced a variable season. There were good growing conditions in spring, but then from November to January it was cold and wet making it a shocker of a harvest. Things picked up again in March and now there are reports of good growth and contracting work around the region progressing nicely.
Being rural contractors, we are always challenged by the weather – but let's just hope the rest of the year is not quite so challenging!
Meanwhile, the pieces are falling into place for our new Agreement in Principle (AIP) that will let RCNZ members recruit overseas staff for next season. All going well, we hope to have the AIP finalised with Labour Department by the end of this month.
For contractors covered by RCNZ's AIP it is a much simpler process to get visas for overseas workers, rather than individual contractors having to go to WINZ and meet all their requirements on their own. RCNZ members who are covered by our AIP must have registered contractor accreditation and sign a written agreement with RCNZ that lays out the contractor's responsibilities under the scheme.
Currently, RCNZ must apply every year to renew our AIP and any qualified member our organisation who wants to join the scheme can do so.
Also during May, our annual RCNZ roadshow will be hitting the road. Our chief executive Roger Parton will be visiting eight regional centres around the country bringing members up-to-date with the latest regulations and information concerning health & safety, road transport and other matters.
The roadshows will visit Whangarei, Rotorua, Hastings, Palmerston North, Nelson, Oamaru, Ashburton and Gore. The Ashburton, Gore, Rotorua and Palmerston North events will also hold agrichemical afternoons and the Zone annual meetings at the same time.
During the roadshows, a new health and safety toolkit is being launched that RCNZ has developed in conjunction with WorkSafe and ACC. Called 'Keep Safe, Keep Contraction', it addresses health and safety issues that pertain to the rural contracting sector.
For all the dates and times go to our website: www.ruralcontractors.org.nz .
Finally, just a quick reminder that RCNZ's annual conference is just around the corner. This year it is been held at the Rydges Hotel in Queenstown from June 19-23. We have a top line-up of speakers and a programme chock-full on interesting stuff. For more details go to the RCNZ website.
In the meantime, let's hope the weather gods play fair and the grass keeps growing so we can all get on with our contracting businesses.