Coroner recommends farm house fencing following toddler's death
Thursday 28 May 2009 6:59 a.m.
Palmerston North coroner Tim Scott has followed through on promises to recommend fencing for all farm houses.
He initially expressed concern about the laws surrounding farm house fencing a fortnight ago, during the inquest into the death of three-year-old Summer Frank on a Taranaki farm in January. Summer drowned after she and her younger brother Brodie, two, fell into the cowshed effluent pond 75m from their unfenced sharemilker's house in Kapuni on January 8.
Her family had asked farm owner Francis Mullan to put up a fence around the house, but it had not been done.
In his inquest findings released yesterday, Mr Scott called for farmers and Labour Department officials to lobby the Government to make fencing compulsory on all farms.
Mr Scott said sharemilking agreements should make it mandatory for houses occupied by sharemilkers and their families to be adequately fenced.
He wanted his decision referred to the Labour Department's Occupational Health and Safety Unit, Federated Farmers, and an appropriate farm worker union, the Dominion Post reported.
Legislation would be needed to make fencing mandatory.
Mr Scott said the legislation could be similar to the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act, which promotes child safety by requiring the fencing of some pools.
He acknowledged he did not have the power to enforce his recommendations on New Zealand's 63,000 farm properties. But he requested the Labour Department and Federated Farmers report back to him within three months on what action they had taken.
Summer's parents, Aaron Frank and Kelly Hughes, who have shifted to a Te Kuiti farm, told the Taranaki Daily News that they were happy with the coroner's recommendations and supported any law changes or initiatives that might be made as a result.
"We are looking forward to our new addition to the family - a girl in seven weeks," Mr Frank said.
Mr Scott criticised Mr Mullan for not fulfilling his agreement with Mr Frank that the house would be fenced.
"In my view, Summer's death was preventable," Mr Scott said. Last night, Mr Mullan said he would always regret that the fence had not been put up. The house was now fenced and the ponds filled in.