Pre-harvest day puts emphasis on safety
Vineyard contractors and wine companies from across Marlborough made the most of a pre-harvest field day yesterday to ensure their machinery is both safe and ready for this year's grape harvest.
More than 50 people turned out to Wine Marlborough's first pre-harvest field day at agricultural and vineyard contracting firm Rose Ag Contractors in Blenheim yesterday afternoon.
Marlborough Winegrowers chairman Dominic Pecchenino said the industry was taking a pro-active approach to safety before harvest to ensure all contractors and machinery owners understood vehicle guidelines and had machinery that was compliant for harvest.
"As an industry body, we want to make sure our members are fully informed of any changes," Mr Pecchenino said. "It's good for the industry, for the guys to have a day to ask some questions about things they're unsure of."
During last year's vintage a couple of harvester operators were caught without lights before sunrise, he said.
"It's something that we, as an industry, do not want to see."
Senior Constable Doug Jackson, of Blenheim, who has been monitoring the use of grape harvest machinery in Marlborough for the past 15 years, was at the field day to answer people's questions and provide an overview of vehicle guidelines.
While the majority of machinery operators from the bigger wine companies were "very good" at ensuring their machinery was roadworthy, the field day was still a good way of reinforcing the rules, Mr Jackson said.
Contractors and wine company employees were given "quick guide" handouts as well as safety demos for the tractor, gondola and two harvesters on site. Having the correct signage for harvest machinery, such as reflective hazard panels, was important as it enabled motorists to identify slow-moving, commercial vehicles.
"This machine here [harvester], travels at about 20kmh - and it could be travelling on State Highway 1, or SH6, or SH62 - it's basically a safety issue for motorists to identify them as a slow-moving vehicle - and the same goes for gondolas and tractors," Mr Jackson said.
Machinery operators were also encouraged to be more mindful of other road users on state high- ways around the region during harvest.
Often motorists had to contend with three or four different harvest machines in convoy, which made passing difficult.
"We encourage them to spread out so there's about 100m between each one to give motorists the opportunity to overtake them individually rather than in a group," Mr Jackson said.
"I remember one harvest when I was going to work down Rapaura Rd around 1am there were about three or four on one side of the road and three or four on the other."
- The Marlborough Express