Farm shutting its gates on fun

By Ilona Hanne -
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Baby the cow and Dave Hunger are closing the gates on fun on the farm, at least for this year.
Baby the cow and Dave Hunger are closing the gates on fun on the farm, at least for this year.

"People are becoming paranoid regarding health and safety, not regarding the health or safety of others, but of themselves."

Dave Hunger is closing the gates on Fernbrooke Farm Amusement Park, at least for this year, while he works his way through a list of "more than 70" changes he needs to introduce or make before he can safely hold open days again.

"Otherwise, if a child gets hurt here, I run the risk of a big fine and being taken to court by WorkSafe."

He is quick to say he has no gripe with any of the health and safety experts he has invited onto his property to help him identify potential hazards, rather his gripe is with a world which has "gone a little bit overboard when it comes to rules and regulations on health and safety".

The disconnect between town and country has got greater over the years. Stratford may be a rural town, but there are plenty of youngsters in Stratford today who have never touched a farm animal or gotten really dirty in good old farm mud.
Dave Hunger

For the past six years, Dave has opened up his farm to visitors with the aim of bridging the gap between town and country, while raising money for charity at the same time.

"I honestly thought I had hit on the perfect idea. It was a case of win, win, win. A win for the community who could enjoy a day out, a win for the charities the money went to, and a win for myself, as I love opening the farm up to visitors."

With no set entrance fee, Dave asked visitors to his various open days to put a donation in the charity bucket.

"The last time we were raising money for Taranaki Hospice, there was $210 in coins in the bucket by the end of the day."

Home-built contraptions like this one were a popular feature of Dave's open days
Home-built contraptions like this one were a popular feature of Dave's open days

As a dairy farmer, Dave says he couldn't bear the fact some children were growing up in Taranaki without ever having touched a cow, or experienced anything about life on a farm.

"The disconnect between town and country has got greater over the years. Stratford may be a rural town, but there are plenty of youngsters in Stratford today who have never touched a farm animal or gotten really dirty in good old farm mud."

The open days were Dave's way of changing that, with a range of fun rides and activities for families to enjoy.

The attractions ranged from an ET ride - a couple of bikes attached to a pole, giving the feeling of flying as you pedal them, through to a weta cave where you can go in and see plenty of cave weta.

There was a maze made of weedmat and wire, the chundermaster - a swing made of a barrel which can be twisted around for a tummy-moving ride, and a magic carpet ride - the chance to sit on a small carpet while being towed along the grass by a tractor. Perhaps the best attraction was the opportunity to sit on Baby, the pet cow, and taste milk straight from her udder.

"A lot of the things kids could try here were things their parents remembered doing when they were younger," says Dave. "It was all just good, old fashioned fun".

But with the rides being built by Dave himself and not certified, a lack of "soft landings" under each activity, and various other health and safety risks, Dave has had to make the hard decision to close the gates Fernbrooke Farm Amusement Park for a while.

"I don't want to say for ever, as I would hate to never be able to do this again, but for now I need to work out if the list of improvements is achievable. At the end of the day, no-one wants anyone to be hurt. I just want kids to be able to come along and have fun."

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