Following the tragic death of Summer Frank in a farm effluent pond, do we need legislation requiring the fencing of such ponds? (Note first that in this case there was actually a fence between the house and the ponds, it just wasn’t child-proof and the gate may have been left open.)
As soon as this girl died the media were all talking about needing a new law to stop it happening in future. And I even heard Summer’s grandfather say on TV last night that we should have a law because he doesn’t want her death to be “in vain”.
The problem with this logic is that to follow it to its conclusion would mean that for every death that was not of natural causes we would need a new law against however that person died. How many people die of unnatural causes each year? How many new laws would that be? Eventually this just gets ridiculous. And accidents will still keep happening.
Summer Frank’s death was a tragedy. Would making a new law make her death not “in vain”? Of course not. Maybe her death will influence some parents watching the news to be more careful with their own children, which could be good, but you can’t make her death “ok” through legislation. It will always be a pointless tragedy.
Would a new law have prevented this death? Probably not. It was already a condition of Mr Frank’s sharemilking contract that a fence needed to be put up (according to TV3 news). Mr Frank had agreed to live in that house without a childproof fence for now, as he had not required the fence before he moved in, nor had he put up a fence himself. It was a lower priority for both him and the farm owner than other farm work before Summer’s death, because most people don’t expect their children to drown. That is human nature. Now it is a high priority for him, but unfortunately it is too late. Mr Frank has said himself:
“I was going to fence these ponds but they were made bigger and there was piles of dirt put up around them. I wished now that I’d just done it.”
Even with a law against it, people will still willingly choose to live in situations that are not perfectly safe, because that is often practical. They will be busy with other farm work and intend to put up the fence to satisfy the legal requirement when they have time – just as in this situation. A new law would be unlikely to change things much. But it would be an extra regulatory burden for all farmers in the country, even those who have no children living in their houses.
Federated Farmers have spoken a lot of sense on this issue:
Federated Farmers president Peter Adamski said it was nigh-on impossible to fence all farm ponds.
“The cost is prohibitive,” he said.
“It’s just part of the rural environment – there is water everywhere. Water troughs, ponds, and kids just go for it.
“You have to give them their boundaries and keep an eye on them.”
[Mr Mullan] says the focus has shifted from Summer’s death and on to who is to blame for the death.
“All they are doing is trying to blame everything else but themselves.
“The whole thing has shifted away from the little girl’s death and it’s now all about trying to make the Mullans pay.
“You ask any farmers. They will have caravans and safely fenced-in areas in their cow shed so they know where their kids are when they are milking.
“We had it for our kids. You are responsible for your own kids to keep them safe on the farm.”
You can’t expect the government to fix everything. Ultimately you must take personal responsibility for your own life. Sometimes that can be very hard to come to grips with, as in this tragic situation.
Please keep the Frank family in your prayers.
February 2, 2009 at 7:53 pm
This was apreventable death, the farm owner could have prevented this by fulfilling his end of the contract. This was not the parents fault in any way. I personally know this family, and if there was a secure fence (as it states in the contract) not just a wire fence (which isn’t sevure for children) Summer would still be here. There are no reports here of nasty vindictive comments and threats the farm owner is now saying to the family.
February 5, 2009 at 9:06 am
Thanks for giving us more info from someone who actually knows the family, obviously I have only been able to go off media reports.
My point is that a fence was already required, as it was in the contract. Making a new law requiring a fence wouldn’t have changed a thing – because it was required anyway. If the legally required fence was delayed this time, it would have been delayed anyway.
Would a new law have prevented this death? No. Would someone actually making a fence have prevented it? Probably.
This case highlights the need to carefully ensure children are safe, but it does not justify a new law that will be flouted just like the current legal requirements were in this case. You can’t solve everything through more laws.
June 19, 2009 at 9:09 pm
Mr Samuels I would love for you to contact me via email and I will phone you so that you may then be fully informed of the whole situation surrounding the issues between farm owner and employee. Its interesting that you have such strong veiws on this topic without knowing anyone from the Frank family, and as far as comments made by Summers father (my brother) in the media, tell me this… do you believe everything you read in the Womans Day? I look forward to speaking with you soon. Lisa Frank
June 24, 2009 at 2:17 pm
Lisa Frank, thankyou for your comment. I do not wish to be drawn into the whole debate about who was right or wrong in this regretful situation, as obviously each party has their own strong and emotive views on that. I am only commenting on the implications of this situation for government policy.
My point is that if someone is already disobeying the current law (as Mr Mullan did), they are hardly likely to obey a new law. As Margaret Baker pointed out, “the farm owner could have prevented this by fulfilling his end of the contract”.
We don’t need a new law every time an accident happens. We do need people to obey the laws we already have.
You could just as well argue that because someone was shot by an illegally owned gun, we should ban guns. The fact is that the gun owner was already breaking the law, but that did not deter them. A new law would make no difference, as they would probably continue to break that too. However enforcement of the current laws would have prevented the shooting.
In the same way, had Mr Mullan obeyed the current law, Summer Frank would probably still be alive today, without any need for more regulations.
April 17, 2012 at 5:02 pm
I am an x farmer. I am presently living next to a subdivision which has the road runoff going into a huge pond right at the back of my property. There is no council requirement for this to be fenced despite it being in the middle of a subdivision!!! However if I put a swimming pool in my back yard it would need to be fenced.
The loss of a child is a tragedy I cannot imagine.
Pointing the finger at anyone is not going to help the situation. As parents we need to be responsible for our children’s safety. If the situation is not safe, take steps to ensure it is or remove yourself from the situation.
In my opinion no amount of legislation will help in this situation.
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