Farmers are a terrible lot. They keep Doing Things, and Doing Things is a risky business. People get hurt, and sometimes they even die. In fact, from the look of the statistics, there isn’t a single case of someone dying on a farm, or in any industry, from Doing Nothing. It’s no great surprise, then, that the government is actively discouraging Doing Things, by fining farmers and industry left, right and centre whenever they engage in such risky activity.
This week, its case against AB Wood Holdings convinced the judge to impose a $134,500 fine after the death of one of its workers. The apple orchardist had dared to Grow Apple Trees On A Slope, a terrible example of Doing A Thing. Not only that, the company hadn’t bothered to flatten the slope, so the worker rolled his tractor while mowing the orchard and died.
Last month, a local government case against award winning farmer Bas Nelis for Trying To Do The Right Thing saw a fine of $16,875 imposed. Nelis was attempting to replant a gully on his land with native flora like the council wanted him to, but it turns out it didn’t really want him to. Thankfully, he was found out before Trying To Do The Right Thing could spread. About the same time, the government case against a couple using Personal Responsibility while riding quad bikes on their farm without helmets was successful. The case was particularly bad because they were trying to teach their children to Do Things and about Personal Responsibility. That’s the most risky combination of the lot, and thankfully the courts imposed a $40,000 fine on the couple for engaging in such behaviour.
After all, it leads to Initiative and Being Able To Judge Risk, and we wouldn’t want to have to deal with an outbreak of that!
No, indeed, you’ll notice that instead the government is encouraging Nothing Much At All as an alternative to Doing Things. In fact, it pays people for it, most likely because doing Nothing Much At All involves no risk whatsoever. So now you can do Nothing Much At All and earn a nice solid income each week.
You can even get subsidies on court fines when you accidentally Do A Thing while supposedly Doing Nothing Much At All.
For example, if you drive drunk and kill people more than once, the Controller and Auditor-General website says courts can send you to jail for as little as 13 months. If you are an employer and for the very first time someone dies while Doing A Thing, you might get five years in jail, a $600,000 fine, or both, according to the WorkSafe website.
Unfortunately, despite the clear message from government, there are still an awful lot of New Zealanders Doing Things under the guise of Trying To Make New Zealand A Better Place. I suppose we’ll all have to put up with the improvement until the government manages to stop everyone from Doing Things, thereby fulfilling the requirements of its health and safety legislation: that all practicable steps be taken to avoid risk.
This article was first published on Stuff.co.nz