FENCED IN: Lismore City Council ranger Stuart Thomson shows a poorly maintained fence, which he claims is the reason for the region’s shocking statistics for road livestock accidents.
FENCED IN: Lismore City Council ranger Stuart Thomson shows a poorly maintained fence, which he claims is the reason for the region’s shocking statistics for road livestock accidents. Jay Cronan

Barbed figures rein in shocking record

LISMORE City Council ranger Stuart Thompson was not surprised to find out the Northern Rivers has the state's worst record for road crashes involving stray cattle and riderless horses.

According to a groundbreaking study released by the University of NSW this week, of almost 2000 reported livestock-vehicle collisions in the state between 1996 and 2005, a quarter occurred on the Northern Rivers.

However, the researchers noted the real toll is likely to be much higher as incidents are significantly under-reported.

“It doesn't surprise me as farm fences bordering roads are in such poor condition throughout the region,” Mr Thompson said.

“These fences need to be constructed with five-strand barbed wire and regularly maintained.”

Of the eight recorded human fatalities in the study, four occurred locally - two involving stray cattle in the Lismore region and two involving riderless horses in the Byron Shire.

According to the study's author, Dr Daniel Ramp from the UNSW School of Environmental Sciences, a regional hotspot like this demands attention.

“The question has to be asked. Why [does the Northern Rivers] have what is certainly the most dense cluster of livestock crashes in the state?

“I can't do that sort of research from here but someone up there should.”

Dr Ramp believes the crucial consideration is that the collisions are with owned animals and as such should be preventable.

The study, which is one of the first of its kind, is based on analysis of the Traffic Accident Database System of NSW.

It also analysed kangaroo and wallaby related collisions, where the Northern Rivers rated as the third highest hotspot in NSW behind Canberra and Newcastle.

Mr Thompson believes responsibility also lies with drivers who he sees regularly ignoring warnings.

“We've had stock out at night in fog where we've set up flashing lights and signs 200m either side of the straying stock and drivers still speed through at 100km/h,” he said.

Dr Ramp's research supports such experience. “All the research in Australia and overseas has found that drivers simply ignore warning signs with animals,” he said.

WHAT CAN BE DONE TO REDUCE ROAD KILL? Phone 6624 3266 or SMS 0428 264 948


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