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King Country farmer urges use of beacons with quad bikes

A 59-year-old King Country farmer says wearing beacons on a belt while riding quad bikes, particularly in remote rural areas, makes good sense.

Chris Barker is in Waikato Hospital after he rolled his quad bike yesterday afternoon (Monday 12 January) on his Mahoenui farm south west of Piopio.

The Hamilton-based Westpac Rescue Helicopter was called to the farm and night vision goggles were used to navigate around the 2428ha  property to locate him.

The long-time supporter of the Westpac Waikato helicopter had never used their services before yesterday and there was another surprise when the paramedic on board was his brother-in-law.

Chris Barker on his quad bike at Herangi Range Station.

Chris Barker on his quad bike at Herangi Range Station.

The farm is in the process of upgrading all its health and safety policies and part of that upgrade is a move to install beacons for use on quad and motor bikes and make helmets compulsory for all staff.

Cellphone coverage on the remote farm is patchy and the property’s terrain is very rugged in parts.

Mr Barker described the fall as “a stupid bad judgement call” on his behalf.

“When the bike fell over I was going at zero speed,” he said.

He has farmed sheep and beef for more than 30 years, 12 of them at Herangi Range on Gribbon Road, Mahoenui .

The move towards wide-ranging health and safety policies comes as he launches a tourist operation called Mai Experience which gives visitors an authentic farm experience.

The farm was first settled in 1893 by Nicholas Gribbon, who built the Gribbon Homestead for his new wife in 1904. This pit sawn home still stands today after being totally refurbished. Gribbon originally travelled by boat up the local Mokau River and later rode over the neighbouring Taumatamaire track, which is one of the main tracks these early pioneers would have taken when carting supplies from New Plymouth.

The area is rich in milling, mining and farming history for both Maori and English settlers.

“We created MAI Experience  so we can share exactly what our country is able to offer; beautiful untouched native bush, tranquil river settings, a kiwi farm experience alongside a friendly and hospitable farming family,” said Mr Barker.

A recent report into the deaths of children in motorcycle, quad bike and other “off road” vehicle accidents called for cross-sector collaboration to tackle what is the country’s second largest cause of recreational death for those aged under 15.

Mr Barker said safety on farms was paramount and he supported measures to reduce quad bike accidents such as his.

The Waikato Hospital trauma service published an article recently which reviewed quad bike injuries in Waikato from 2007-2011.

The paper showed a spectacular rise in quad bike injuries in that period. The admission rate to hospital rose by 42 per cent between 2009 and 2010.

Maori were at particularly high risk and rollovers and collisions caused the most serious injuries. Children had the same injury rates as adults.

ENDS

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