Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Why isn't this farmer in jail?

What's the penalty for bulldozing 70 hectares of protected riverbank without resource consent? A slap with a wet bus ticket:

A $34,000 fine handed down to a North Canterbury farmer should serve as a warning to others farming near braided rivers.

Jan Scott Rutherford also faces additional costs of remediating land after he cleared about 70 hectares of the braided Waiau River, which despite being on his property title, was not permitted under the Resource Management Act. He did so despite knowing he did not have a resource consent in place.

Rutherford, who was sentenced on August 15, pleaded guilty to six charges relating to offending including excavating or disturbing the Waiau riverbed; damaging, destroying or removing plants and plant and animal habitat; and discharge to water.

And for that he got a fine of less than $500 per hectare he destroyed. Some "warning".

This was a deliberate, pre-meditated offence for commercial gain. The law allows a penalty of up to two years imprisonment for such offences, and its exactly this sort of offence which seems to merit it. Or, to put it another way: if deliberate, pre-meditated and widespread environmental destruction for profit isn't bad enough to warrant the prison time or community work the law contemplates, what is?