Environment Canterbury is standing by its decision not to fine or prosecute Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias and her businessman husband Hugh Fletcher after photos emerged of their cattle drinking out of a North Canterbury lake.
The decision, made public yesterday, has been criticised by the Green Party as sending the wrong message to farmers who are doing the right thing.
Last month, a photo emerged of cattle from Lakes Station wading and drinking from Lake Taylor, next to a Department of Conservation campground. The photo was taken by a holidaymaker and posted to Twitter, drawing flak from environmentalists.
Environment Canterbury (Ecan) said it investigated and found only a minor environmental effect.
Ecan compliance manager Marty Mortiaux said there was no need to take legal action, and an abatement notice was sufficient.
"We are satisfied that the effect of the cattle in the lake is minor, and that the property owner and farm manager really want to ensure that it doesn't happen again, and have been very co-operative in that respect," he said.
"If it had had a moderate or serious environmental effect, we would have been looking at harsher penalties."
Mr Mortiaux noted reports of previous breaches by Lakes Station were in fact attributable to a different property.
The maximum fine Ecan could have imposed under the Resource Management Act was $750.
Green Party MP Catherine Delahunty said there needed to be consequences for those not abiding by the rules, or the behaviour would continue.
"Not fining Lakes Station is basically saying to the hard-working farmers, you didn't need to bother," she said.
Fish and Game spokesman Don Rood was also hugely disappointed.
"It shouldn't rely on frustrated holidaymakers sending in photos of cows next to a campground. It should be actually active enforcement and education.
"Ecan's own rules were broken and yet it doesn't seem to be able to actually do anything about it or have the will to do anything about it and that's what we find disappointing," he said.
Dame Sian and Mr Fletcher could not be reached last night.
- Newstalk ZB, staff reporter