23 Feb 2024

Truck driver takes to the water to reach farms

From Country Life, 7:19 pm on 23 February 2024
Gareth Parkes

Photo: Southpac Trucks

A large blue truck and trailer unit has become a common sight in the Marlborough Sounds as it's barged to farms to pick up and drop off livestock.

The access road was badly damaged during storms in July 2021 and August 2022, and major repair work to the road is ongoing.

"For the first couple of trips, I had a farmer and his tractor come down to make sure I could get up the beach. It was a little bay where they used to launch their boats and whatnot," he said.

Since then, a ramp has been built in Fish Bay that is suitable for all tides and can handle Gareth's trailer, which carries up to 720 fat lambs.

Gareth Parkes

Photo: Southpac Trucks

"We're very careful backing onto a barge. A lot of the time I'm doing it in the dark as well. The skipper and I have got a really good relationship - we know exactly what each other's doing - but yeah, it's definitely not for the faint-hearted."

Gareth did 62 barge trips with livestock in the first 12 months after the road was closed, a further 70 trips in 2023 and he's already made a few this year, too.

"Most of the lambs that are trucked and barged out go to Alliance's meat processing plant in Nelson, but cattle also go to Levin or Oamaru."

For farmers, barging out livestock is an additional expense they do not need.

"It costs four to five times more than what it used to, and the farmers have been told the road will be ready for truck and trailer by the end of the summer. But no one knows which summer!"

Check out these videos of Gareth and his truck as he heads to a farm on a barge run by Johnson's Barge Service in Havelock:  Video 1 - Video 2  - Video 3

Country Life

Gareth Parkes at home in Linkwater Photo: Cosmo Kentish-Barnes