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Rise in wandering stock on state highway prompts reminder

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Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency is reminding farmers to keep their livestock secure, following an increase in the number of incidents of stock wandering on the road.

Waka Kotahi resumed responsibility for managing stock on the Gisborne state highway network from Gisborne District Council on 1 July 2020. That month, Waka Kotahi recorded 56 incidents of wandering stock, compared to seven recorded by the Council in July last year. In August, Waka Kotahi recorded another 57 incidents, compared to ten recorded by the Council in August 2019.

“Animals on highways present a significant safety risk for motorists and there is the potential for serious injuries, and even fatal crashes, as a result,” Senior Network and Journey Manager Helen Harris says.

“Since we resumed management of wandering stock in the region, we’ve recorded a big increase in the number of incidents. We know that recent severe weather events may have caused damage to fences across the region, but it’s important that fences are repaired as quickly as possible so that stock can be safely secured.

“We’re encouraging farmers to check all fences before stock enter boundary paddocks and take care with temporary road grazing fences. Ensure they are in good condition and conducting power well.

“We’re also reminding farmers that under the local bylaw, stock are not permitted to graze on the state highway during hours of darkness. When stock are grazing the road side during the day, make sure you have a stock manager available.”

A recent incident of a cow on the state highway could have had serious consequences for a local truck driver, who does not wish to be named.

“The driver tried to avoid the cow but he pointed out that it’s not easy to move a large truck around a large animal, especially when coming up to corners or blind spots,” Ms Harris says. “The outcome could have been much worse had it been someone in a smaller vehicle.”

The driver’s employer, Mike Allen, says: “It’s frustrating for me as I have to worry about my drivers and time off the road to have the vehicle repaired, which will cost about $20,000. But I was just pleased my driver was okay.”

Inspector Matt Broderick, Eastern District Road Policing Manager, says: “Crashes with large animals can have dire consequences, particularly if it’s a smaller vehicle or motorbike. Farmers need to do their bit by keeping stock off the road.”

Helen Montgomery, Gisborne District Council Director of Environmental Services and Protection, says: “We are working with Waka Kotahi to make all our roads safer for motorists, but we are aware that recent rain has strained some farmers’ resources. We are asking motorists to drive with caution on rural roads, especially at night.”

The owners of stock are liable for any damage caused if their stock are wandering, and they can be prosecuted if animals cause a crash and negligence is proven.

Motorists are asked to report any wandering stock by phoning 0800 4 HIGHWAYS.

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