Palmerston North coroner Tim Scott has called for farmers and the Labour Department to lobby government to make fencing compulsory for all farm houses.
Mr Scott said sharemilking agreements should make it mandatory for houses occupied by sharemilkers and their families to be adequately fenced.
He wanted his decision referred to the Labour Department’s Occupational Health and Safety Unit, Federated Farmers, and an appropriate farm worker union, the Dominion Post reported.
Legislation would be needed to make fencing mandatory.
Mr Scott said the legislation could be similar to the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act, which promotes child safety by requiring the fencing of some pools.
This follows the death of a three year old who died after she and her brother fell into an effluent pond about 75 metres from their house. The house wasn’t fenced, there was a stock fence between the house and the pond.
The children’s parents, who were sharemilkers, had asked the farm owner to fence the house. He had bought fencing materials but asked the child’s father to wait until the section was levelled before building the fence.
This is a tragedy made worse because of the if onlys: if only the fence had been built, if only the pond had been fenced, if only the children hadn’t been playing outside . . .
The coroner is quite clear in his findings that the parents were not to blame.
The sharemilking agreement had a clause which said the property would be fenced but it was in the fine print of a standard contract – 119 of 161 clauses on 37 pages.
He recommends that share milking agreements make it mandatory for all houses occupied by sharemilkers and their families be adequately fenced and that this clause be highlighted.
He goes on to recommend that all farm houses should be securely fenced.
But how practical is that and if farm hosues are to be childproof why not every home?
Farms are full of dangers but is an effluent pond nearly 100 metres from a house in the country any more dangerous than a busy road right outside one in town?
And how do you make a whole property completely childproof?
Friends had a deer fence round their house and the children learned to climb it. Other friends had their gate fastened so securely that visiting adults couldn’t get in but their three year old son managed to get out.