Time's up, industry boss says

EVAN HARDING
Last updated 05:00 16/06/2012
Barry Pullin
STACY SQUIRES/Fairfax NZ

RAISING THE BAR: New Zealand Shearing Contractors Association chairman Barry Pullin says his organisation will work with government departments including police to address alcohol-related issues in the shearing industry.

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Southern police are introducing measures to tackle alcohol-related violence and drink-driving in the shearing industry.

The industry has been in the headlines for the wrong reasons in the past year, with an Invercargill district court judge and the Otago-Southland coroner criticising the boozing ways of shearing gangs.

When sentencing southern shearing-gang workers on alcohol-related charges in the past year, Judge Kevin Phillips has made numerous stinging comments about the industry.

These included saying that alcohol appeared to be a contagious disease in shearing gangs; shearing was an industry where part of the training was to drink alcohol almost daily and cause mayhem; and alcoholism was the "inherent disease of working in the shearing sheds".

And coroner David Crerar had his say this month, calling on all shearing contractors to take steps to ensure the safety of their staff outside of normal working hours. This followed the drink-driving death of teenage shearing hand Troy Macfarlane after a work party.

New Zealand Shearing Contractors Association chairman Barry Pullin this week responded, saying his organisation had been saying for a long time that enough was enough.

The organisation had taken many steps in the past five years to combat issues of alcohol, drug abuse and driving accidents during work time, Mr Pullin said.

The shearing association took matters relating to driving and alcohol among its members very seriously and the issue was discussed at a recent executive meeting, with decisions made.

"A proposal was put forward to work with the New Zealand police, Department of Labour and ACC in an effort to continue helping influence and change the shearing community's attitude towards drinking and driving.

"The days of working hard and playing hard, with alcohol involved, are definitely over," Mr Pullin said.

Southland area commander Inspector Lane Todd said last night that the drinking culture in the shearing industry was a problem, not just with drink-driving, but also with violence, both in Southland and rural Otago.

He welcomed the fact the industry wanted to work with police, saying police had themselves taken steps to work proactively with shearing contractors in Southland and rural Otago in the past two months.

A police intelligence team had been tasked with identifying what the issues were and a police iwi liaison officer would consult with the shearing contractors to reduce alcohol-related harm, Mr Todd said.

A Labour Department spokesman said the alcohol issue was for the shearing industry to address, but the department would be supportive of any initiative the industry implemented to tackle the problems.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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