The Environment Court has allowed a Kaipara farmer who disturbed a wetland on his property to complete remedial work before ruling on any possible fines.
Gavin Otto Neumann pleaded guilty in the Environment Court to a charge under the Resource Management Act of disturbing a wetland in Taipuha between September 5, 2013 and February 25, 2014. The work was carried out on a property on Cassidy Rd, Taipuha, which had been owned by his family trust since 2007. Neumann cleared vegetation and carried out earthworks, including constructing a farm race. He appeared for sentencing in the Environment Court at Whangarei last week.
Lawyer Karenza de Silva, who acted for Northland Regional Council, which laid the charge, said Neumann's action was deliberate and he failed to take remedial steps.
The court should send a message to the public of the important role wetlands play in the ecosystem despite their vulnerability, she said.
But Neumann's lawyer Darrell Hart said the previous farm owners did not acknowledge the area as wetland.
He said Neumann did not rush into works he did on the wetland but made inquiries with locals, especially experienced farmers.
Mr Hart said an average New Zealander would walk across the piece of land and would not consider it as a wetland because the ground was dry and hard for most of the year. The offence was low level because Neumann had not removed soil or vegetation, he submitted.
Judge Craig Thompson assessed Neumann's culpability as low and said he would rather see any fines imposed used in a restorative justice process.
The judge said it was a significantly degraded and compromised wetland before Neumann did anything on it.
A conviction was entered but the judge deferred the imposition of any penalty until October 30.
Neumann has been ordered to register the wetland he owns with the Queen Elizabeth National Trust.