Inquests into a string of quad bike fatalities have begun in Whangarei today.

Northland coroner Brandt Shortland said the inquest into Northland farmer John Roderick McInnes, also known as Jack, was the first of five inquests involving quad bikes he would hear over the next six weeks - including a cluster of three deaths within eight weeks in Northland.

During a two-day inquest in Auckland next month Mr Shortland would hear from a number of experts, including academics, government representatives, safety officials and those in the rural sector.

He would hear all the evidence and then make recommendations which he said would be a collaborative effort with community input.


"The issue around quad bike safety is very complex," he told those at today's hearing.

Mr McInnes died on September 25 when the quad bike he was using to spray weeds rolled on him at Marua, 20km south-east of Whangarei. He was riding the vehicle on a steep hill across rough ground when it rolled 180 degrees and pinned him face-down.

He was found by his daughter and her husband.

The inquest into the death Arapohue farmer and builder Carlos Mendoza, 52, will be held tomorrow in Whangarei followed by Suzanne Claudia Ferguson, 62.

Mr Mendoza died in a quad bike accident on September 16 near Dargaville.

Mrs Ferguson was towing a trailer of haylage on August 9, 2010 when her quad bike is thought to have rolled on steep terrain, pinning her underneath at a Gammon Rd farm near Awarua, about 20km south of Kaikohe.

The Chief Coroner last year raised concerns about the number of quad bike fatalities. He said previously that the inquests were being heard together to determine if there was anything in common among the deaths that could then be used to improve quad bike safety.

Last year the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment launched a safety campaign after several quad-bike deaths across the country.


Every year, on average, 850 people are injured, on farms, riding quad bikes, with five deaths.

However, the number of annual deaths has risen sharply in recent years, prompting the ministry to release several safety guidelines.

It says quad-bike riders must be trained/experienced enough to do the job; should choose the right vehicle for the job; always wear a helmet and children should not ride adult quad bikes.

Farmers who don't follow those safety steps risk penalties under the Health and Safety in Employment Act if someone working on their farm is seriously injured or killed.

The ministry also recommends that quad bikes be maintained in a safe condition; riders take care on slopes and rough terrain; don't exceed the capabilities of the bike; don't do tasks that interfere with safe riding and keep both hands on the bike, with eyes on the ground in front.