A Bay of Plenty man has escaped a criminal conviction in part because it could stop him travelling overseas with his partner - former Magic netball coach Noelene Taurua.
Edward Goldsmith, 41, appeared in the Tauranga District Court yesterday after he was found guilty last month of two Department of Conservation (DoC) charges - knowingly and without authority interfering with the natural features of the Lake Okareka Marginal Strip conservation area, and erecting a deck on it without authority.
Goldsmith was discharged without conviction by Judge Christopher Harding. However, he will have to pay $11,030 in reparation to cover the cost of reinstating land he excavated, aerial shots used to prosecute and surveying costs.
Goldsmith and Ms Taurua own the lakeside Black House on the Point lodge, where the offending occurred.
Goldsmith's lawyer, Peter Wright, cited the impact that a conviction would have on Goldsmith's role on several community trusts and his ability to travel overseas should Taurua be successful in her applications for overseas coaching jobs.
"A conviction may inhibit Mr Goldsmith's ability to travel to Fiji or South Africa with his partner, where she hopes to work in a coaching role," he said.
"The consequences are more than what is being dealt with here."
Judge Harding said the high profile case had raised public awareness of how they should deal with marginal strips and what changes they could make to public land without consent.
It had also had a big effect on Goldsmith's family, who were considering moving from the property.
Judge Harding said in some ways Goldsmith had made improvements to the site, albeit without permission.
"This was not a pristine, natural environment with a historical site, for example, but that is not to say we should not ingrain to the public that such changes will go unnoticed," he said.
"The gravity of offending is largely at the lower end of the scale and I am satisfied that a conviction would impede on Mr Goldsmith's future travel with his partner and his ability to serve on one trust where he has served for a number of years, so I will discharge without conviction but consider costs."
Earlier claims that DoC was picking on Goldsmith or making an example of him because of his partner's status were refuted by DoC prosecutor Mike Bodie.
"It has been hurtful to the prosecution to say this case is a test case," he said.
"DoC is the fifth busiest prosecuting agency in New Zealand, we have over 100 cases per year and we are concerned about integrity and the quality of our cases. There has been no suggestion of singling out. This case was in response to a public complaint."