Farm leaders seek to quell alarm over future of quad bikes

Farm leaders seek to quell alarm over future of quad bikes

News
Aa

TWO peak state farming organisations have moved to quell fears quad bikes will disappear from the Australian market.

TWO peak state farming organisations have moved to quell fears quad bikes will disappear from the Australian market.

Aa

Three major overseas manufacturers - Honda, Polaris and Yamaha - have announced they will pull out of the local market when new safety standards are introduced in October next year.

The new standards will require new quads to be fitted with rollover devices and meet minimum stability requirements in a bid to reduce on-farm deaths and serious injuries.

A number of leading farmers have started questioning the need for the new safety standards and say agriculture can't afford to lose such an important workhorse.

Quad bikes are highly manoeuvrable and cost-effective for jobs like mustering and can handle hilly terrain and boggy conditions.

They can also be easily loaded onto trailers, along with other tools and dogs, and pulled to jobs.

Both the NSW Farmers Association and Victorian Farmers Federation are concerned about rumours that quad bikes are about to completely disappear which has triggered panic buying in some areas.

President of the NSW Farmers, James Jackson, said a number of quad bike makers had indicated their commitment to remain in the local market.

"It is regrettable brands like Honda and Yamaha have said they will stop offering quad bikes to the Australian market, limiting some farmers' access to their preferred brand, however supply will meet demand," he said.

Mr Jackson said quad bikes were a leading cause of death on farms and following a number of horror fatal accidents the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission concluded a Safety Standard should be introduced applying to all new quad bikes. The first phase of the new safety measures will begin this October.

"Quad bikes play an important role for many farmers as the 'workhorse' to perform a number of tasks. It is also fact that quad bikes can turn dangerous quickly if they are not appropriately used," Mr Jackson said.

President of Victorian Farmers, David Jochinke, said the decision by some manufacturers to withdraw from the Australian market rather than adhere to new safety regulations had caused significant angst in the farming community.

The new safety regulations were designed to address the 15 deaths and 650 hospitalisations per year caused by quad bike accidents, he said.

"We may be a small portion of the international quad bike market but we also understand we are not the first country to mandate roll over protection, and that we will not be the last.

"Despite the original withdrawal of some manufacturers from the Israeli marketplace their quad bikes are still available for sale there," he said.

Meanwhile, farmers have been using social media to raise their fears about the future availability of quad bikes beyond October next year.

Western Australian beef producer, Peter Cowcher, Willandra, Williams, said he had visited the Midland Honda Shop where he was told no quads would be sold after the introduction of the new safety standards.

Ben Glatz, Black Angus, Lucindale, SA, said his family had probably bought the last Suzuki quad bike to be sold by his local dealership.

"ATVs are by far the best farm vehicle for us and many farmers. Australia cannot afford to lose ATVs."

People seeking a release from COVID-19 restrictions had also been a factor in increased quad bike sales for Northern Motorcycles, Port Augusta, according to owner Phil McCourt.

MULTIPLE REASONS: Northern Motorcycles, Port Augusta, owner Phil McCourt said increased quad bike sales at his store had been caused by both concerns over future availability, and people seeking an outlet from COVID-19 restrictions.

MULTIPLE REASONS: Northern Motorcycles, Port Augusta, owner Phil McCourt said increased quad bike sales at his store had been caused by both concerns over future availability, and people seeking an outlet from COVID-19 restrictions.

The store - which stocks the Honda and Yamaha brands slated to pull out of the Australian market - has doubled its sale of quad bikes in recent months.

"There is a few people buying now because they're worried the bikes are going to run out by the end of next year," Mr McCourt said.

"It has a little bit to do with the increased demand, but we've also been selling a few to blokes who want to get out and about, go fishing and ride around during these times of COVID-19 restrictions."

Mr McCourt said his store had not been able to meet demand, with suppliers not able to send any new stock for several months.

Martin Oppenheimer, Perali, Walcha, NSW, said the safety standards on quad bikes were "regulation gone mad. A bad result for farmers".

But Tim Coyle, a mixed farmer from Walbundrie in southern NSW, disagreed.

"If you look at the facts that our farm kids and dads are dying on quads and have a ride on a side-by-side that's not a golf cart with a lawnmower motor you might change your mind. Better farm safety is not a bad result."

Mr Oppenheimer replied that children weren't meant to ride quads and side-by-sides were also involved in plenty of accidents. "Are they next?"

Philip Russell, from Philip Russell Motorcycles in Warrnambool, said they had no quad bikes to sell with the last one selling at the end of May.

"Our next stock will be next year if we actually get stock," he said. "It's 25 to 30 per cent of our business gone straight out of the door."

Last week Paul O'Connor, a director of a major mixed farming business based at Oxton Park, Harden, NSW, joined the debate, saying he opposed the new rules.

He said he didn't want to sugar-coat the potential dangers when quad bikes were ridden inappropriately. Children and farm visitors should be kept off them

He said his family business had been using them for more than 30 years and they remained an important tool.

Side-by-sides were more expensive than quads and didn't have their portability or manouevrability, he said.

"At the moment if I buy a quad bike and I want to fit an after-market device then that is as it should be. I cannot see any good reason to legislate against this freedom of choice.

"The only thing that is being achieved from this piece of legislation is that Australian farmers will no longer be able to purchase a quad bike in the future.

"There are some jobs on the farm that a quad bike is the best piece of equipment available to do a particular job."

And Georgina Gubbins, a farmer at Heywood in south west Victoria, told the Warrnambool Standard that productivity in the region would take a hit if quad bikes were no longer available on the Australian market.

"We need to find a solution without them withdrawing from the market because in our rainfall area we're going to be stuffed without ATVs," she said.

"The side-by-sides will just get bogged in our environment. It's just a joke and it's very disappointing the Victorian Farmers Federation's stance on this.

"Yes, we do have to reduce deaths on farm, nobody is disputing that.

"There has to be a solution among all of this, the VFF have said 'well put roll bars on', well we've got them on ours and we get caught on trees."

Roe Motorcycle and Mower dealer principal David Reinheimer, Warrnambool, said farmers had been buying multiple bikes and storing one in the shed util it was needed down the track.

The story Farm leaders seek to quell alarm over future of quad bikes first appeared on Farm Online.

Aa

From the front page

Sponsored by