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Farmers in Waitaki are being warned they could face both heavy fines and police action if they do not keep the district's rural roads free of mud.
Both the Waitaki District Council and police have noted an increase in mud, thought to come from farm machinery using rural roads. Community constable Bruce Dow said the build-up of mud was already suspected to be the cause of one car accident in the district.
Senior Constable Dow said a crash in which a driver lost control after encountering mud in Weston-Ngapara Rd in May was still under investigation, but the crash happened after a maize crop was harvested in the area.
''Concern has been raised by police staff that there is larger amount of mud being left on country roads by stock wandering along or across it.
Mud is on lots and lots of rural roads right around the district, more so after rain, as farmers leave their paddocks and cross roads or go along roads after leaving a paddock.
''Farmers need to be cautioned about this occurring, as we have had a crash involving mud on the road and farmers will be held to account should another occur.''
Last week, the Waitaki District Council adopted changes to its roading bylaw that would result in people responsible for spills, mud or animal faecal matter on rural roads being fined up to $20,000.
The bylaw could also seek costs to repair any damage to the road. Council roading manager Michael Voss said muddy roads were an ''increasing problem'' in the district but laws were now in place to issue fines.
''We now have the teeth to enforce or to explain to some of the miscreants out there that their behaviours are not conducive to road safety, plus they can actually damage the road as well.''
Changes to farming practices were behind the problem, he said.
''We are getting more and more heavier vehicles on our roads, particularly those with pleated tyres, and the real issue is if they keep their speed down, then they won't throw so much mud.''
Mr Voss said the council had recently received complaints about the state of roads in the Corriedale area, and although council officers had investigated the complaints, evidence would be needed to issue any fine.
Federated Farmers North Otago president Richard Strowger said farmers did have a duty to be more responsible, but added there had been factors this year that had contributed to the problem.
''Part of the problem is we had such a wet season and we have had to do a lot of feeding out, which means tractors and things going into paddocks that have turned to bogs and then ... they have got to come back out again to get more food.''
He said some farmers had also commented that the council had ''sprayed off'' (with herbicide) the sides of roads a lot this year, ''which was really good in the summer but in the winter, that has created a whole bog at the side of the roads''.