Feral pigs: New quad bike safety laws impede hunt
FERAL pigs are reaching plague numbers with farmers fearing new legislation could soon further exacerbate the problem.
All quad bikes imported or sold new in Australia from October 2021 will be required to have rollover bars fitted in controversial laws geared towards improving safety for users.
But the laws, while still more than a year from being enforced, have already impacted the accessibility of the vital on-farm machine for many farmers, with new models not lasting long on the market.
Critics have argued the rollover bars will impede the versatility of the machine, making them top-heavy and unable to navigate rough terrain as easily.
But politicians and doctors have lauded the laws as a viable, long-term measure tipped to reduce quad bike fatalities and serious injury incidents.
Eton farmer David George said the rollover bars would limit where the bikes could go on properties.
And as farmers and hunters regularly use quads to combat feral pests such as pigs, there were concerns numbers would continue to grow.
"The pig issue is a major issue," he said.
"I've been fighting them here in my area since 1982. They now live in the mangroves and everything that can be done is being done.
"Hunting and conservation groups do that sort of work, and nearly all those hunters use quads so changes are going to make that harder."
His concerns about rollover bars stretched further than feral animals.
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Mr George gave away cane farming last year and now runs cattle on his 404-hectare farm half way between Mirani and Eton at the foothills of the Ben Mohr state forest.
Mr George said decent, second-hand quad bikes were being snapped up as soon as they were listed as farmers and landholders prepared for the introduction of the laws next year.
Honda, Polaris, Suzuki and Yamaha - the four largest quad bike brands used on farms - have indicated they would stop supplying Australia with the machines.
"I was mustering cattle a few weeks ago and the buggy just doesn't cut it with the larger turning circle whereas quads, you can wheel them around quickly," he said.
"They sit a far bit above your head so when you're chasing cattle and go under a tree, it could get caught up in a branch.
"The kills are inexperienced (operators) or they're doing the wrong thing."
Rural Doctors Association of Australia Dr John Hall said the roll-bars, or Operator Protection Devices, would save lives and "any debate around this issue is completely crazy".
"Anyone who lives in the bush knows somebody that has either been injured, killed or had a near miss on a quad bike," he said.
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"Just because there are some manufacturers having a tantrum because we don't want Australians to die on their bikes is no reason to compromise on the new requirements.
"As doctors we see not only the tragic consequences for the people that are severely injured or killed, but also for their family, their friends and their community.
"No injury or fatality has ever been attributed to an OPD, and all of the fatalities that have occurred on quad bikes over the past 20 years, which is 267, only one of these had an OPD fitted.
"There are six visits to an emergency department every day due to quad bike accidents."
Federal Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar, in announcing the laws in October, said the safety standards aimed to address the "high risk of rollovers".
All new quad bikes must have a warning label alerting riders to rollover risks, meet United States or European standards for brakes, suspension, throttle and clutch, and test for stability and display the result on a tag at point of sale.
The requirements must be in place by October this year.