Suspicions over motive for Omarama farm tyre-slashing

By Hamish MacLean

Police have said the motive for slashing 44 tyres on three centre pivot irrigators at Omarama Station remains unclear. Photo / 123RF
Police have said the motive for slashing 44 tyres on three centre pivot irrigators at Omarama Station remains unclear. Photo / 123RF

The Omarama farmer whose pivot irrigators' tyres were slashed at the weekend says he remains hopeful the culprit will be caught.

The cost of the damage was estimated at up to $40,000.

While police have said the motive for slashing 44 tyres on three centre pivot irrigators at Omarama Station remains unclear, Richard Subtil says he has become aware of a growing suspicion among some social media users the attack was targeting irrigation.

In the Otago Daily Times last month, Mr Subtil called for a more balanced discussion on environmental concerns in the area, which had ''become a bit of a battleground'', he said.

This week he said the thought had crossed his mind that this damage might be related to that comment, though he had no evidence of that.

He ''really'' hoped anyone who heard something about the damage would call police.

''Because if this is how we're going to conduct a discussion about how we're going to do stuff - if that's the way you win, by being a cowardly bully - then it doesn't say much for us, does it?''

Police earlier told the Otago Daily Times the offender, or offenders, would have been ''committed'' to their task; the pivots were not easily spotted from the road and fences would have been navigated by someone with intent.

The three pivots taken out of action at the Subtils' sheep and beef property near State Highway 8 early on Saturday were repaired by Monday morning, Mr Subtil said.

Nevertheless, the ''traumatic'' experience was ''mindless'' and ''sad''.

''If people are thinking they are striking a blow for the environment ... we've now got a small mountain of almost brand-new tyres, as such, that are completely unusable. And I wonder what they think is sustainable about that?''

When the vandalism made the news, it attracted attention among farmers.

Duncan Humm, a Mid Canterbury farmer and an administrator of Facebook page NZ Farming, which has more than 100,000 followers, said he believed many viewed the attack as ''wider-angled assault on irrigators''.

''I guess because it's a bit of a contentious thing down in Mackenzie Country at the moment, I think some people have just randomly picked an isolated farm with irrigators on it to take advantage of, cause some trouble,'' he said.

He also called for a more sensible approach to the issues from both sides.

North Otago Federated Farmers president Simon Williamson, who farms near Omarama, said farmers in the area were shocked by the crime.

''To me, this came well out of the blue. And it's disappointing because from whatever way you look at it, even if you're an environmentalist, it's not a very environmentally friendly thing to do, is it?''

He said if the offenders were targeting irrigation, they hit farmers who were well known for their commitment to environmental issues. Mr Subtil and wife Annabelle are former South Island Farmer of the Year winners, and supreme winners of the 2015 Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

The Subtils have worked with local iwi and the Department of Conservation to promote the regeneration of the native longfin eel population.

Yesterday, police could not provide further information on the investigation.

- Otago Daily Times

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