I'm a committed Southlander but even I would accept it takes a bit to pull in 40 people to a meeting on a frosty winter's evening down here.
So it was with a recent meeting in Winton of Zone 4 of Rural Contractors NZ. We had 40 members (or staff of members) turn up and it just proved to me the value of our organisation for which I am now proud to be President.
We had Mark Bryan talk to us, a director of VetSouth, one of two clinical research clinics in the South Island and Adjunct Senior Lecturer in Dairy Cattle Medicine at Massey University.
He outlined to us how MBovis spreads and how critical it is for contractors to ensure they clean their machinery as they travel between farms. Given the scale of the MBovis issue in Southland and other regions, the capacity to listen to and engage with someone with Mark's knowledge was invaluable.
It reinforced for me that you simply cannot be across issues in contracting by sitting in your cab, perhaps with some cell phone coverage.
We also had representatives from the Commercial Vehicle Safety Team (CVST), formerly the Commercial Vehicle Investigation Unit, which works with Police support to monitor all areas of the commercial vehicle industry, including trucks and machinery.
They told us what they want to see on the roads and that they are more there to advise and support than take action. We asked questions about what we can do to meet their requirements while transporting machinery between farms.
Essentially, we are on the same page when it comes to convoys of machinery, knowing the appropriate width and weight allowed for a vehicle, how to travel safely at lower than normal speeds.
There's a lot to get your head around – and that's just with CVST's requirements.
What it brings home is that compliance – be it with CVST, health and safety, employment, labour or tax issues – is the new normal.
Anyone who ignores the varying needs to comply with what's demanded faces potentially huge consequences if they fail to meet the requirements; ignorance is no defence in law.
I think the message that RCNZ is a simple way to stay on top of such requirements is getting through.
Some companies had four staff at our Winton meeting.
In that one session, we all got up to speed on some key issues as we head into another season. That more than paid for our modest RCNZ membership fees, which are also well offset by the special deals we have for members with insurance and fuel.
Big ups there by the way to Immigration NZ who have worked with other Government agencies to allow us to bring in a considerable number of skilled machinery drivers for season about to start.
This doesn't mean we will take our foot off the pedal in trying to put as many Kiwis as possible into our cabs. We will employ anybody who has the skill or even just the aptitude and commitment to drive a big piece of machinery.
If you are interested – from Southland to Northland – just email our CEO and come along to one of our next meetings.
All the best
President, Rural Contractors NZ