Sandra is a senior crimes and justice reporter for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Farmers want harsher penalties for livestock rustlers

Federated Farmers wants harsher penalties for livestock thefts and the federation's rural security officer Rick Powdrell urges all landowners to report incidents to police. Photo/File.
Federated Farmers wants harsher penalties for livestock thefts and the federation's rural security officer Rick Powdrell urges all landowners to report incidents to police. Photo/File.

Federated Farmers is calling for harsher penalties to combat livestock thefts.

The call comes after two local men were convicted and fined $750 each in the Tauranga District Court on Friday for unlawful hunting after stalking and shooting a stag worth $5000 on a property owned by a Te Puke farmer.

The two offenders had previously paid $2500 to the victim after a restorative justice meeting.

After sentencing, Rick Powdrell, Federated Farmers' rural crime security officer said judges needed to " throw the book" at rustlers and poachers.

Penalties should be similar to those handed down for fishery offences, he said.

Federated Farmers had been lobbying MPs including the Minister of Primary Industries, Nathan Guy, over the issue and National MP Ian McKelvie has a private members' bill to increase the penalties for stock rustling.

Findings from a 2016 Federated Farmers survey revealed that 26 per cent of the 1102 farmers who responded to the nationwide survey, including Bay of Plenty landowners, had livestock stolen in the past five years, Mr Powdrell said.

Sixty per cent of those cases involved poachers or rustlers taking up to five livestock, and in 7 per cent of cases, they took between 16-30 livestock.

Mr Powdrell said thieves had stolen 80-plus animals in 4 per cent of the cases, which put the thefts in the professional offenders' category.

"This shows it's a huge problem all over the country, and this is the reason why Federated Farmers is advocating for decent penalties to send a clear message to offenders."

It was alarming that only 41 per cent of respondents who confirmed they were victims of these sort of thefts had reported it to police, he said.

Federated Farmers, rural insurance company FMG and police had joined forces to hold a series of workshops across the country to encourage reporting of all incidents, including suspicious activities around rural properties,

Mr Powdrell said kiwifruit and avocado orchardists were also targeted every year, particularly in the Katikati area.

Next month Federated Farmers would be holding a workshop in Katikati to aimed at getting the message out to the Western Bay community.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said stock theft was a serious issue for rural New Zealand and more police would help tackle the problem.

"We've announced a major boost in policing across the country with an extra 880 sworn police officers, including 140 officers to focus on regional and rural policing.

"It's also important that people report any theft to the police and keep in touch with other farmers."

2016 Federated Farmers National Survey

Of the 1012 farmers surveyed 26 per cent reported being victims of stock thefts in past five years;

* About 56 per cent were sheep thefts, 19 per cent beef stock
* 15 per cent dairy animals, 6 per cent deer, 2 per cent goats
* 11 per cent other farm animals, including pigs and chickens

Source: Federated Farmers

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