Pair sentenced for destroying wetland

By Imran Ali

Two companies have been fined for destroying protected wetland. Photo/Thinkstock
Two companies have been fined for destroying protected wetland. Photo/Thinkstock

Two companies have been fined $50,000 each and their directors given non-custodial sentences for draining a protected wetland on the Aupouri Peninsula to extract swamp kauri.

The sentences on Raymond Bird and his company Sovereign Station Trustees and Gary Beckham and Mangonui Development and Civil Construction were handed down by the Environment Court after charges were laid by the Northland Regional Council.

Beckham pleaded guilty to 21 charges and Bird to 16 charges laid under the Resource Management Act.

Sovereign Station Trustees owned 940ha in the wetland known as the Kaimaumau swamp where the breaches took place.

The council issued an abatement notice in December 2010 and an enforcement order from the Environment Court in April 2011 to stop earthworks and/or land clearance.

Judge Craig Thompson also ordered that the two men perform 200 hours community work each and imposed community detention for three months.

They'll be on curfew from 8pm to 6am daily for the duration of their community detention sentence.

He set a start point for a fine of between $200,000 and $300,000 for the two companies as their offending was long-term and deliberate and needed to be dealt with sternly.

But a substantial discount was allowed, given their guilty pleas and their financial positions.

Judge Thompson said since Bird was an unemployment beneficiary having been declared bankrupt in mid-2013, the prospects of his paying a fine or contributing to costs in any significant way didn't exist.

Mangonui Development and Civil Construction, he said, had ceased trading and had substantial creditors.

Judge Thompson ordered that 90 per cent of the fines imposed be paid to the council as an appropriate means of recovering prosecution costs.

The Kaimaumau wetland is considered to be one of the most important in Northland.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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