'Very careful' handyman killed

00:05, Jan 16 2014
Gary Wakefield
CONSCIENTIOUS CHARACTER: Gary Wakefield died in one of two tractor accidents in the Nelson region yesterday.

The Motueka community is mourning the loss of a loyal and committed worker, friend and family man, Gary Wakefield, who was killed when the tractor he was driving rolled on a Lower Moutere property.

His wife Pam said today he was a man who helped everyone around him.

The accident at 8.25am at an orchard in Seaview Rd was one of three around the country yesterday involving tractors, with another one at Tapawera in the afternoon, and another in Hawke's Bay.

It was one of four serious accidents so far this month, including another fatality earlier this month when a 63-year-old North Canterbury farmer, Colin Nairn, died after being crushed by a tractor.

Worksafe NZ strategic communications manager Mark Scott said an inspector had visited the scene where Mr Wakefield, 67, died, and an official investigation was under way.

The accident was difficult to fathom, property co-owner Ashton Wood said.


"Whatever happened was very unusual. He was so careful and never took any risks."

Mr Wood described Mr Wakefield as a close personal friend who he had known for nearly 40 years.

"He was the type of man who just did his job, did whatever he was asked, and he was always very, very careful and methodical.

"He was always 110 per cent absolutely careful and always took his time."

Mr Wakefield, who was retired, had done handyman work on the property for the past 11 months.

"He worked on the orchard mowing, truck driving and pruning. He could do anything," Mr Wood said.

"He was a lovely man - he was very quiet and dry-witted, and all the staff really liked him. He was always a bit of a character."

Mr Wakefield was the former grounds foreman at the Kaiteriteri Motor Camp, recreation reserve board manager Rob Guild said.

"He just retired 18 months ago, after 25 years. Everyone knows about him, and he was very well respected. We have started a condolence book in the office."

Mr Guild described his friend and former workmate as a "very particular bloke" who was not only a good worker but a good mate.

He said Mr Wakefield had ideas about the campground, which he discussed and then put into action, which was why it looked as good as it did.

"He was an easy man to work with, and had a very friendly disposition and got on well with the campers."

A 54-year-old Tapawera man was today in a comfortable condition in Nelson Hospital after the region's other tractor accident yesterday afternoon.

The man was flown to hospital about 2pm by the Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter after the tractor he was driving rolled.

Emergency services said the man was working on a farm, and while heading up a hill the tractor slid backwards, then rolled.

He was treated at the scene by the helicopter's intensive care paramedic and then flown to hospital.

Worksafe NZ said farm vehicle safety was a critical issue in the agriculture sector.

As workplaces, farms are required under the Health and Safety in Employment Act to identify hazards and to prepare plans to eliminate, isolate or minimise those hazards.

Mr Scott said the issue of whether Mr Wakefield's death might have been medical-related would be part of the investigation.

West Coast-Tasman MP and Labour's primary industries spokesman Damien O'Connor offered his sympathies to Mr Wakefield's family and other families who had suffered farm accidents, which he said happened "all too often" in a sector where dangers were higher.

"I use a tractor quite often, and I know how easy things can go wrong. In my experience, it is often the least experienced and the most experienced workers who have these types of accidents."

Mr O'Connor said he felt more should be done to remind people about the dangers, and there was a duty on employers to eliminate as many risks as possible.

Nelson Federated Farmers president Gavin O'Donnell said the pastoral sector was always deeply concerned when accidents happened.

"Farmers are always aware of the risks every day they walk out the door. They usually all take precautions, because there is such a huge cost personally and financially if things go wrong."

He did not think there needed to be further policies to safeguard farmers.

"Just having rules in place does not make people make better choices."