5 minutes with Roger Parton

5 minutes withWhat exactly does Rural Contractors New Zealand do?
As the national association for the rural contracting sector, we provide a wide range of membership services as well as representing the sector at central and local government level, including a number of industry and sector forums. Like any other trade association, we advocate for the sector in order to improve their lives. This can be as diverse as achieving the significant changes to agriculture transport legislation in 2013 to our ongoing involvement with the Rural Health Alliance. Agrichemical application is a significant part of the industry and we work with government departments and industry groups in this area.

What are the benefits to rural contractors that align with your organisation?
Access to ongoing information relevant to the industry. Employment Agreements, some business forms, updated transport information and circulation of industry material. We have accreditation schemes for Registered Contractor and Registered Chemical Applicator, as well as holding a large conference and trade exhibition (Queenstown, 19th - 22nd June 2017). We have fuel and insurance schemes for our members and each year we arrange an Immigration New Zealand Approval in Principle for our members to bring in overseas workers for the harvest, reducing the cost and effort required.

What are some of the main challenges facing rural contractors in New Zealand today?
Very similar to the farming sector, as the same factors affect us both. Recruiting and retaining staff, getting young people into the industry, overseas market fluctuations, environmental and resource planning demands and of course, Mother Nature. Like others in the rural sector, the isolation and lack of social connectivity can be a real issue, not just for the contractors but for their families as well. The changes to the rural sector over the past 50 years have made living in rural New Zealand very different from what it was and we have not yet addressed all of the issues that have arisen.

You are based in Wellington. How important is it to maintain close ties with government and other rural organisations based in the capital?
Representing the sector at all levels is a crucial part of the task. To be able to influence or contribute to policy in the early stages is far more effective than trying to achieve change when policy has been almost decided. The personal contact with parliamentarians, officials and other organisations can be very fruitful in ensuring that any decisions made enhance or certainly do not hinder the work of the sector.

How successful have the spray tags, created in conjunction with Farmlands, been for Rural Contractors New Zealand?
Anecdotally, I understand they have been well received and have provided a resource that for many was not previously available. They are an inexpensive and highly visible tag to warn all concerned that there is a withholding restriction on the pasture to prevent contamination. If it only saves one tanker load of milk from being dumped, it will be well worth it.