Patrice Dougan is the Herald's education reporter.

Farmer who mistreated cows unjustifiably dismissed

File photo / Glenn Taylor
File photo / Glenn Taylor

A farmer who was fired for allegedly mistreating cows, including kicking and screaming at one, was unjustifiably dismissed.

Nathan Morunga was employed as a herd manager for Waterford Holdings Ltd at a Takaka farm when two alleged incidents took place in late 2013.

The farm's owner Gregory Fellowes was told about the incidents by a dairy worker and a neighbour who claimed to have witnessed the mistreatment.

The dairy worker claimed to have seen Mr Morunga chasing a cow towards a cowshed on a motorbike. Mr Morunga was then seen to jam the cow in with a heavy gate, slamming it against the cow before kicking it and screaming at it, a finding from the Employment Relations Authority said.

The neighbour told Mr Fellowes that she saw one of his workers driving a motorbike into the legs of a cow on two occasions.

Mr Fellowes put the allegations to his herd manager in a letter. But when a meeting was called, Mr Morunga began shouting and swearing, prompting Mr Fellowes' partner to call police, who issued him with a trespass notice, according to the ERA finding.

Mr Morunga denied the allegations, saying they were false and did not happen.

He also complained that his co-worker's children had been overheard talking on the school bus that he had been "fired for hurting animals".

Mr Morunga was later dismissed from his position.

He then laid a complaint with the Employment Relations Authority.

It found that the alleged offences did take place but there were procedural flaws with the way his dismissal had been handled and he was therefore unjustifiably sacked.

Waterford Holdings was ordered to pay Mr Morunga $5325 in lost wages and $2500 in compensation.

Mr Fellowes said today he was pleased the ERA found the allegations of animal cruelty had most likely taken place, but "upset" by the overall decision.

"It was just disappointing that even with an employment lawyer you can still get it wrong," he said.

He was considering an appeal.

"Getting paid to beat up a cow doesn't seem right to me."

Comment was being sought from Mr Morunga.


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