The Landcorp manager who led the removal of quad bikes from the company's New Zealand dairy farms two years ago says the move has been a success.
Landcorp Farming Limited is a state-owned enterprise of the New Zealand government. Its core business is pastoral farming including dairy, sheep, beef and deer.
It is New Zealand’s largest farmer with 140 farms and stations.
General manager of Landcorp's dairy operations, Mark Julian, spoke about farm safety measures the company had taken when at Invercargill on Tuesday for the New Zealand Association of Resource Managers Conference, being hosted by Environment Southland.
Landcorp axed all quad bikes from its 57 New Zealand dairy farms in 2015, after two of its employees died in rollover accidents in 2010 and 2015, both on the west coast, he said.
Mr Julian's job was to oversee the workers on the coast at the time of the 2010 fatality, describing the time as "pretty tough".
The company did a lot of soul searching following the tragedy, researched the issue and introduced safety measures, but the 2015 tragedy prompted the decision to axe quad bikes from the company's dairy farms nationwide.
Quad bikes were "easy" to roll on flat land, he said.
Hundreds of quad bikes were removed from the company's dairy farms.
The company's dry stock farms, which were hillier, have reduced quad bike numbers from "hundreds" to less than a hundred.
The company was now using more two-wheeler motorbikes, small tractors and side-by-side vehicles with roll frames and seatbelts.
Mr Julian said every vehicle came with its risks and accidents continued to happen, but he believed the right decision had been made.
"It's been a success ... my view is quad bikes are inherently unsafe and if you can replace them with another vehicle to improve safety on farm, you should," he said.
The debate around quad bike use on farms would continue, he said.
Southland Federated Farmers president Allan Baird said he believed there was still a place for quad bikes, especially on dairy farms where the land was flatter and they were often ridden slowly in everyday work.
He disagreed quad bikes were easy to roll on flat land.
"If you want to roll a quad bike with foolish behaviour you can tip them over ... and you have to be careful going backwards," he said.
Side-by-side vehicles were sturdier on hills because they had a wider wheelbase and were lower to the ground, but the trade off was they were more expensive to purchase and operate, he said.
Mr Baird believed retailers should be encouraging farmers to get rollover bars when selling quad bikes for hill country use.
And he believed farmers were heeding advice from Worksafe and ACC which essentially was "if the terrain isn't right for quad bikes, don't use one".
Two-wheel motorbikes were much safer than quad bikes on undulating and hilly farms because there was less risk of them falling onto a rider following an accident, Mr Baird said.
Worksafe figures, released to Stuff, reveal there were at least 2637 non-fatal injuries involving quad bike accidents on New Zealand farms in the five years between 2012 and 2016.
The figures show the quad bike injury rates have decreased each year, from 595 in 2012 to 426 in 2016.
There were 27 quad bike fatalities on New Zealand farms in the same five-year period, with 2015 the worst year when nine people died, Worksafe says.