Home > News > Archive > 18th September 2007

Contractors could be ‘cut short’

Courtesy of Te Awamutu Courier
Agricultural contractors

New rules for agricultural contractors requiring them to take compulsory breaks are 'bureaucracy gone mad', says Taranaki-King Country MP, Shane Ardern.

The new driving hours and logbook rules affecting agricultural contractors come into force next month. They require agricultural contractors who drive farm machinery such as tractors and harvesters to take compulsory rest breaks after five-and-a-half hours on the job. The rules require them to take 24 hours off after seven days of work.

"These might be sensible rules for truck drivers on public roads, and no doubt they seemed sensible to the bureaucrats who wrote them for the Government. But they are not practical for agricultural contractors working on the land," Mr Ardern says. "Imagine having to down tools and stop harvesting when a crop is ready because ‘the rules’ say you have to. Imagine having to stop work when the hay is just right for baling because you have worked beyond your mandated time period."

Mr Ardern says sowing and harvesting crops, and cutting and baling hay, are dependent on the weather.

"Farmers have to be flexible to deal with the weather, and so do agricultural contractors. They have to work when the conditions suit. They have to make hay while the sun shines. They should be allowed to take a break when they can - not when Labour says they have to. These rules will increase compliance costs, make it more expensive to hire agricultural contractors, and create yet more bureaucracy for small businesses and sole traders already choking on red tape. They will be almost impossible to enforce."

Mr Ardern says most rural areas have skill shortages, and our agricultural sector is increasingly dependent on contractors.

"The majority of contract work is seasonal, and contractors have to travel large distances and put in long hours to pay for their hefty investment in machinery. The Government should be making work easier for them, not harder. These regulations ignore the practical realities of agricultural work. They are just another case of pointless interference in the productive sector."

Not surprisingly, the Rural Contractors' Federation agrees. Executive director Roger Parton said the impending changes would make the successful operation of this industry impossible. Mr Parton says the Rural Contractors Federation was not consulted on the rule changes and subsequent submissions were ignored. The Federation was pinning its hopes on a statement made in Parliament by the Minister that he would move to reinstate the exemptions for agricultural contractors.

"Otherwise from October 1 rural contractors will be criminalised because the very nature of their work will mean they break the laws."