Health and safety dangers close dairy farm turned adventure park
A dairy farm turned amusement park has been temporarily closed as its owner works through a long list of safety improvements to avoid potential prosecution.
Over the last five , Dave Hunger has developed his Stratford dairy farm into Fernbrooke Farm Amusement Park, complete with cow rides, flying fox, a maze and even magic carpet rides behind a tractor.
But after a story about the park in January, Hunger said he was approached by people concerned he could be opening himself up to prosecution if someone was injured.
"One or two members of the public came to me and said 'we think you're putting yourself in a really vulnerable situation because your gear is uncertified and it's all home made, it hasn't been ticked off by an engineer or designed by an architect'," he said.
* Farm-turned-amusement park provides 'good, wholesome, old fashioned fun'
* Spider bike is Stratford farmer's latest creation
* Now all they need is a castle ...
* Dave and Goliath trike-umphant
* Let's move to... Stratford
* Hungering for excitement
* Vintage tractors a great antidote for men with garden visit overload
"So when I stopped and thought about that and realised what would be involved in being prosecuted, it wasn't an appealing prospect."
Hunger said he put a hold on the open days he'd been running and had the place checked by health and safety experts who gave him a list of more than 70 different improvements needed to get to a legal standard.
"I'm probably not going to be able to use the flying fox. That's something that people tend to think is more dangerous than sitting on a cow or riding a swing and that's fair enough," he said.
Before he closed the farm, Hunger said there had never been an accident.
"I'm a volunteer and I had people signing a waiver or an acknowledgement that there are risks here on the farm, there are waterways and flying foxes and things that carry some risk and I was asking people to sign something that said they were taking responsibility for their family unit. I felt that would have me covered but apparently it doesn't," he said.
Farm safety expert and managing director of On Farm Safety Bronwyn Muir said she inspected the farm and discussed with Hunger how he could meet industry standards.
"From a safety perspective, there are some industry standards (both farming and adventure related) that Mr Hunger and I discussed and I have offered to assist with development of some safety conditions and standards but it is clear to me that Dave is not setting out to put any person in harm's way and all the actions discussed are completely achievable.
Hunger had started working through the list of improvements needed and said he was hopeful he could complete them before next summer.
"I'd like to think I'd get to the end of it and reopen and I could reopen but it's not guaranteed, there's still some big hurdles," he said.
"Some of them are really small, just signage, some are quite big."
He said he understood the government had to find a balance between protecting people and making sure they were still allowed to have fun, but he thought the current law, brought in after the Pike River Mine disaster, went too far.
"It's a balancing act between keeping people alive and keeping people that are alive enjoying life," he said.
"We've got to strike that balance sometimes and I think the balance has gone a bit too far to keep people breathing and not letting people enjoy life."
It had also been difficult to work out which standards he would have to use, as the farm was so unique.
"There are industry standards around flying foxes, with height and what have you, there's industry standards around rivers and safety, and I'm not sure what industry standard we're going to use for riding a cow, I don't think there is one unless they lump us in with jockeys or something," he laughed.
"No one really quite knows how to class this or how to judge it or what standards apply because it's unusual, it's a grey area and everyone is scratching their heads saying how do you judge this, what standards does it have to be."
However, the decision to close the adventure park wouldn't put an end to his creativity and he had created a frisbee golf course across his paddocks for people to enjoy.
"It won't stop me creating new things, I just have to make sure I present them to the public in a way they enables them to enjoy them safely," he said.