Rural contractors deserve to be listened to on safety issues created by new roading developments which don’t allow motorists to pass slow-moving vehicles, says Associate Agriculture Minister Andrew Hoggard.

Opening the Rural Contractors NZ conference in Masterton  (Tuesday June 18) the Minister said he sees the issues when he drives to Parliament from his Manawatu home.

New and outgoing RCNZ Presidents Clinton Carroll  and Helen Slattery with Minister Hoggard.

Mr Hoggard says there are median barriers preventing over-taking between Levin and Otaki as well as no shoulder space to allow vehicles such as tractors to pull over.

“There’s a lot of tractors trying to get in and out of paddocks.” Motorists were getting angry as a result. “There’s lots of screaming, fingers out the windows and potentially stupid decisions being made.”

Roading developments needed to allow traffic to get past slow-moving machinery.

Canterbury rural contractor Steve Murray asked the Minister if he might support signage to alert motorists when they entered areas where there was agricultural activity and the need to drive safely.

Mr Hoggard said he was wary of the cost of NZTA signage but people needed to recognise that primary production made up 80% of NZ’s income.

He promised to take up the issue of providing for slow-moving machinery with Transport Minister Simeon Brown.

Rural Contractors NZ CEO Andrew Olsen said his organisation has already written this month to the Transport Minister but any help was very welcome.

“This issue is not limited to Horowhenua. We’ve got rural contractors having to do 7km runs on SH2 in Bay of Plenty where there are no areas to pull over or slow down. Rural contractors in Waikato and other parts of the country are facing similar anger from motorists because of median barriers and no pull over space.”

“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. We want Minister Brown to act.’’

Mr Hoggard also told the Rural Contractors NZ conference that the Government will make announcements shortly on the future of freshwater farm plans.

He said it was important that councils and farmers could have confidence in the robustness of freshwater farm plans.

The Labour Government introduced the requirement for the plans which started to be rolled out last year in Waikato and Southland, by Otago and the West Coast councils in February, and in April in Manawatū-Whanganui. Farmers have 18 months from the commencement date to submit a freshwater farm plan for certification.

Mr Hoggard said there was a lot of confusion on what was required and he did not want people wasting money on such plans until the Government was sure they can work.

“As far as I am concerned everything must be working properly before we go live on this, “Mr Hoggard told rural contractors. “There will be news on this soon. It will make the farmers’ life a hell of a lot easier.”

Meanwhile, Wairarapa man Clinton Carroll is the new President of Rural Contractors NZ which represents the $2.5 billion industry.

Mr Carroll, who runs Wairarapa Weedsprayers, was elected by his Board to replace Waikato’s Helen Slattery who stood down after three years in the role. Previously Mr Carroll was Vice-President.

Three new Board members were also elected at yesterday’s first day of the conference being held at the Solway Park Hotel. They are Taupo’s Gordon Brown, Alistair Kalin from Taranaki and Canterbury’s David Molloy.