RCNZ profile: Clinton Carroll

Farm Trader talks to Rural Contractors NZ vice-president, Clinton Carroll, who played a significant role in helping to review the new agrichemical standards published last year

A spraying trial sugar beet crop

Clinton represents RCNZ on the NZ Agrichemical Education Trust (NZAET), which oversees Growsafe. For the past 16 years, he’s also run Wairarapa Weedsprayers, a family business that his father, Brendan began in the 1970s.

The new standards

The updated NZ Standard for the Management of Agrichemicals (NZS 8409:2021) was published in September 2021, following a 19-month review and a 12-month public consultation period. It was last reviewed in 2004.

A statement released by Growsafe in 2021 said, “It (The Standard) provides practical and specific guidance on the safe, responsible, and effective management of agrichemicals, including pesticides, veterinary medicines, and agricultural use of detergents and sanitisers.”

The new standard provides a single comprehensive source of information for agrichemical users, from storage and transport to application and disposal.

Pasture spraying on hill country

Expert knowledge

Clinton was one of two spray contractors who contributed their practical knowledge to ensure the new regulations were doable.

The committee was made up of 17 industry representatives from across the industry, including technical experts and central and local Government regulators.

“It was a complex process and was the most reading I’ve ever done.

However, I was satisfied we’d done a thorough job once we finished. The contractors I’ve spoken to are happy with it too.”

The new NZ Standard is sometimes referred to as ‘the spray contractor’s bible’, and Clinton says contractors need to be informed and aware of the changes.

Wairarapa Weedsprayer’s fleet lined up in the shed

“It’s your go-to guide if you want to know the new regulations. There’s loads of information to help you, so it’s a good tool. If you work to that standard, you can feel confident you’ve done your homework and are in the right place.”

Clinton adds that it’s also important for agrichemical sales reps to read about the changes and be up to speed with the new rules. Spraying contractors who are starting out would start with a Growsafe certification. Clinton says there’s a lot of information on their website growsafe.co.nz.

“If you are a new contractor, get in touch with RCNZ, and they can help too.”

Key changes

Extensive and detailed changes are written into the new standards; these include limiting the scope of the standards to the workplace, making plans around notification and signage, personal protective equipment (PPE), disposal, competency and training and adhering to a Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS).

Clinton spoke about some of these.

“Concerning chemical residues, we need to try and avoid bringing loads of waste chemicals back to our yards, so there’s been discussion about where contractors can wash up on farms and being able to collaborate with farmers to do this.

Chemicals are clearly marked and securely stored in the shed

“We want everyone to lift their game and use best practices to achieve that goal; it’s important for farmers and contractors to work closely together.

“The NZ Standards have guidelines on the disposal of chemicals, so we want to develop a range of protocols or templates for people to follow, so whether they are a large or small contracting business, there will be one to suit them.

“We’re working with farmers and retailers to supply the farmers only what they need and avoid having containers of unused chemicals left in their sheds.”

Agrecovery’s rural recycling programme for the safe disposal of unwanted agrichemicals plays an important role in this.

“We don’t want to be sending chemicals overseas to be disposed of when we could easily eliminate this by better practices.”

The update on PPE gear reflects changes in technology and the regulatory environment. A new addition was a table of risk factors.

“Every chemical is different; you must know your chemicals and read the labels,” says Clinton.

When it comes to planning, notification, and signage, one of the objectives is to get greater consistency across the whole country.

“We’re trying to make a universal standard for all regional councils. At present, they vary. We hope that as they have their reviews, they will adopt the new standard, which will become New Zealand-wide. When everyone works together – farmers, sales reps, contractors, and regional councils – we get the best outcomes. Ultimately, it’s about getting a good result for the farmer.”

NZS 8409: 2021 can be obtained from the StandardsNZ website. Holders of the current Growsafe certificate such as Registered Chemical Applicator (RCA) can access an electronic version for free through growsafe.co.nz.

A supportive network

Clinton has been RCNZ vice-president for two years and says he’s enjoying the role immensely.

“We’ve got eight board members; there are currently two spraying contractors, and the rest are agricultural contractors. In my role with RCNZ, I focus on getting as much information to our members as possible. If they have any issues, they can ring me, or I can put them through to Growsafe.”

According to Clinton, spraying contractors must be informed of industry changes annually. That’s where being a member of RCNZ helps provide them gain the relevant information.

Jobs are easily tracked with TracMap and Ag Guide GPS systems

RCNZ’s annual conference is an excellent place for contractors to connect.

“It’s a brilliant event, and we find we can share lots of information. When RCNZ members get together at the bar for a drink, they enjoy having a yarn and catching up with their colleagues.”

With his own business to run, Clinton says he does as much work in his RCNZ role as he can over winter.

“In busy periods, we do Zoom meetings; it’s very time-efficient.”

Wairarapa Weedsprayers

Clinton runs Wairarapa Weedsprayers, which is now into its third generation, with his son Henry joining him in 2020. The Masterton-based business goes back to when his father Brendan bought the one-person spraying business in 1979. Clinton joined him in the early 1990s. His wife Fiona helps with the business administration.

“We work over a 70km radius, from Kahutara in the south to Homewood in the east, Eketahuna in the north and Tararuas in the west. We work on flat to steep land. One-third of the properties we spray are sheep and beef, and the rest are divided into cropping and dairy farms,” says Clinton.

They run six Mitsubishi Canter 4x4s with 18-metre booms. All vehicles run with GPS guidance and TracMap job management to easily organise and track jobs.

“TracMap was particularly handy during the lockdowns. We did loads of work without needing to physically contact the farmer,” says Clinton.


Clinton employs a team of five staff and says spray contractors tend to keep their staff all year, but it’s been tough for agricultural contractors.

“They are always looking for extra staff; that’s the hardest thing for them.”

The Carrolls are long-term members of RCNZ, with Brendan joining in 1980 when it was called Chemical Applicators – a section of NZ Contractors Federation. Clinton continued when he took over.

“Being a member of RCNZ keeps you informed of all the new rules and regulations constantly changing in our industry. Our board and sub-committees are consistently putting in submissions, and we feel RCNZ has a powerful and respected voice in the industry. It’s also a great place to meet like-minded contractors. There’s always some friendly rivalry between the spray contractors and the ag contractors.” 

Clinton says the need to give back motivated him to put his hand up for an active role with RCNZ.

“I felt it was my time to join the board a few years ago once my kids were older. You don’t realize how much knowledge you’ve accumulated over the years you’ve worked in your contracting business. I would encourage members to keep in touch with their board members and let them know what they want from their organisation.”                                       
Additional information is available from Growsafe.

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Photography: Supplied

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