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Company convicted for illegal grazing

Company convicted for illegal grazing

Illegally grazing 380 cattle in a conservation area for two weeks in 2017 could cost a Southland farming company more than $100,000.

Wairaki Station Ltd was sentenced in the Invercargill District Court on 20 February, after admitting one charge of “knowingly and without authority carrying out an activity, namely farming operations, in a conservation area”.

Wairaki had grazed 380 head of in-calf cows in two areas totalling approximately 190 hectares in the Takitimu Conservation Area for 15 days from 24 April last year before the animals were removed. Wairaki installed a temporary electric fence to contain its animals within the conservation area – which was retired from grazing in the early 1990s.

Wairaki’s director Richard Slee said in an affidavit he saw the conservation area as “rough feed”, “almost going to waste” and that it was convenient to put the animals in the conservation area right next to the Wairaki farm boundary.

Wairaki admitted it had intended to leave the animals there for a month, although other feed was available on the farm at the time.

During sentencing Judge Mark Callaghan said that while the direct actions of putting the cows in the conservation area may not have been to save money, there were benefits and savings for the company in other ways as well as an eventual profit from sale of calves.

The maximum available penalty was therefore increased, to recognise the commercial gain or reward the company could receive, from fines of $200,000 plus $10,000 per day of further offending, to fines of $300,000 plus $20,000 per further day.

Allowing for mitigating factors of cooperation and remorse, previous good character and entering a guilty plea at the earliest opportunity, Judge Callaghan imposed total fines of $52,450.

Judge Callaghan also gave Wairaki credit for contributing $14,823 towards DOC’s investigation costs and agreeing to pay restoration costs for weed control in the conservation area of up to $35,000 over the next five years.

Department of Conservation (DOC) Acting Operations Manager John McCarroll said the Takitimu Conservation Area has significant conservation values and the cattle caused considerable damage and impacts including stock tracking, heavy pugging of stream riparian margins and wet areas, and vegetation effects.
“How well this area recovers is unknown at this stage, we do know that this type of stock incursion adds to the persistence of weeds (gorse and broom) which DOC has been actively controlling.

“We have been working with Wairaki Station in relation to managing these impacts and will continue to do so over the next three years,” Mr McCarroll said.
ENDS

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