Tuesday, 02 June 2015 13:56

Unbuggering the muddle

Written by 
Workplace Relations Minister Michael Woodhouse. Workplace Relations Minister Michael Woodhouse.

Workplace Relations Minister Michael Woodhouse recently described the existing workplace safety legislation a ‘bugger’s muddle’. 

It seems the proposed new legislation isn’t much better, given that it’s been sent back to the transport and industrial relations select committee for “further consideration” – code for “it’s still a bugger’s muddle”.  

Everywhere farmers are revolting at the prospect of some of the items in the proposed legislation – especially the ‘threat’ to ban passengers from quads and the prospect of farmers being overwhelmed by paperwork in having to conform to so-called safety plans. At the best of times bureaucrats are tolerated but seldom loved by farmers or even politicians, who see them as a hindrance rather than a help. 

In this particular case, WorkSafe NZ has got itself off-side with many in the farming community – including some of its highly respected leaders. Even Woodhouse conceded to Rural News recently that WorkSafe has a “perception problem” with farmers.

Farmers are not against the intent of the legislation and they want to reduce accidents on farms, but they feel that the bureaucrats are not listening to them but are instead proposing impractical solutions, and that are driven by ‘process’, rather than outcomes. Farmers also see WorkSafe as being out there to get them and prosecute them for what they (farmers) see as minor infringements. 

Farmers’ vocal opposition has not unnaturally been directed at local MP’s, mostly National Party ones, many of whom are themselves farmers, therefore openly sympathetic and very sensitive to the rural revolt.

To support the new legislation, as it stands, would be ‘courageous’ on the politicians’ part but it’s well-known that ‘courageous decisions’ can be politically suicidal and career ending. (A bit like Andrew Little’s idea of means-testing workers over 65). So faced with a rural revolt the Government has sent the bill back to the same select committee that produced the outcome that is still deemed politically unacceptable. 

Will they do better this time as they mull over the legislation, fortified by a cup of tea – or something stronger? Will WorkSafe NZ back down and modify some of the more contentious proposals? 

Or will some sort of deal be done by WorkSafe NZ and farmers to sort this out quietly behind closed doors and present a solution to the committee that lets the politicians off the hook? 

The rural jury is out.

More like this

Safety mindset must change

WorkSafe NZ is calling on farmers and other rural businesses to treat health and safety as more than a compliance issue.

Heads up on a good hat

Quad safety is back in the news in Australia, where the Government has ruled that rollover protection will be mandatory within 24 months.

Shonky work scuppers safety

Recent news that roll bars will be mandatory on quads in Australia within 24 months prompts the question: what’s going to happen in New Zealand?

Good point

A mate of the Hound’s, recently back home in Wakefield, Nelson following a month in Christchurch for medical treatment, reckons health and safety, ACC and other rules being imposed on farmers are ridiculous compared to other risky sectors.


$26m boost to rural health

The government has announced a $300 million dollar capital investment in health, with $26 million going to regional and rural service projects.

New levy to hit farmers

The New Zealand Agricultural Aviation Association (NZAAA) is up in arms about a proposed new safety levy.


Winegrower wins a Nuffield

For the first time in 45 years, a member of New Zealand’s wine industry has won a Nuffield Scholarship.

» The RNG Weather Report

» Latest Print Issues Online

The Hound

Says it all!

A mate of yours truly reckons one only needs to look at the gongs given out in the New Year…

Easily bought

This old mutt was not surprised to see a number of supposed ag industry ‘thought leaders’ (a pompous title if…

» Connect with Rural News