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Source: New Zealand Transport Agency

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency is praising East Coast farmers and stock owners for their efforts to ensure that fencing is safe and secure to keep animals from wandering onto the state highways.

Stock wandering onto State Highway 35 (SH35) has been an ongoing concern for many years. Since Waka Kotahi took back responsibility for managing stock on the Gisborne state highway network from Gisborne District Council in July 2020, it has recorded 587 wandering stock incidents.

National Journey Manager Helen Harris says that while Waka Kotahi has continued to respond to a high number of incidents, she is heartened by the visible improvements that people have made to their fencing along SH35.

“We’ve been talking to stock owners and written letters to remind them of their important role in keeping motorists safe by repairing broken fences and gates to prevent animals from wandering onto the highway.

“Prior to the recent lockdown, our team took a drive along SH35 and saw that considerable effort had gone into fencing repairs or new fencing. We know that the flooding around Tokomaru Bay earlier in the winter took a toll on everyone, so we really appreciate the effort that people have made to check for any damage to fencing after the floods.

“Animals wandering onto the highway present a significant safety risk for motorists. There is the potential for people to be seriously injured or killed, so it’s really important that stock are kept secure.

“We’d like to thank all those farmers and stock owners who have done the right thing and made sure that their fencing is strong and sturdy to prevent stock from getting out and wandering onto the highway.”

Ms Harris is also commending SH35 communities for looking after each other by alerting people to stock on the road via Facebook groups.

“People are giving SH35 drivers a heads up about locations with stock on the road, and often farmers will notice that it could be their stock so know to take action.

“However, we ask that as well as this, people still call 0800 4 HIGHWAYS first so that our work crews can respond quickly and so our records accurately reflect the numbers.”

Ms Harris says Waka Kotahi will keep reminding stock owners to maintain secure fencing for their animals.

“We’re still getting frequent calls to the same locations, so I’m again asking those stock owners who have not yet made the necessary repairs to their fencing to please do so as soon as possible and help keep motorists safe by ensuring animals cannot wander onto the road and into the path of vehicles.”

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, farmers are encouraged to ensure a stock manager is available to monitor the animals.

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.