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High Court confirms fine for illegal stock access

The High Court at Hamilton has confirmed the fine imposed on a Glen Murray farmer for allowing his stock to graze in a stock exclusion area in, and on the shores of, Lake Whangape in north Waikato.

The fine of $19,800 was confirmed by Justice Jagose following an appeal made by the farmer, Oliver Cother Saxton, after his conviction and fine by the district court in September this year.

In his appeal, Mr Saxton said he had made a voluntary payment of $20,000 to the Department of Conservation (DOC) to carry out mitigation planting, and he felt the district court had not adequately taken account of that when imposing the fine on him.

In his ruling, Justice Jagose noted that “considering Mr Saxton’s offending involved a deliberate breach of restrictions imposed by the RMA, undertaken for personal gain and with disregard for the preservation of the reserve, the sentencing objectives of accountability, deterrence and denunciation clearly are engaged”.

Mr Saxton was also issued with an enforcement order by the district court not to undertake any activities within the reserve without written permission and supervision from DOC, as it was their reserve.

In August 2017, Waikato Regional Council was alerted to stock in the reserve. It was established that the stock belonged to Mr Saxton, whose land adjoined the reserve. There was a history of him grazing his stock in this area, despite it being fenced off from his property. The council and DOC had advised the stock owner several times since 2010 that this practice must stop.

The fine and order is the result of the council carrying out a prosecution under the Resource Management Act. The council noted there were immediate environmental effects from the grazing, including damage to indigenous fauna, soil compaction and increased sediment caused by stock trampling in a protected significant natural area.

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