A Whakatane man has been fined $15,000 plus a further $15,000 in reparation to the Ministry for Primary Industries for milling indigenous timber.
The defendant, Stuart McKenzie Neilson, pleaded guilty to illegally milling about 17m3 of rimu and matai, part way through the recent defended hearing in the Whakatane District Court.
The court heard that under the Forests Act, indigenous timber can only be produced from forests which are
managed in a way that maintains continuous forest cover and ecological balance.
Controls on sawmills mean they may only mill logs of indigenous species sourced from forests managed according to sustainable management plans or permits, or other approved sources. Indigenous timber may
only be milled on registered sawmills and only after consent is granted by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) under the Act.
The Ministry's northern compliance manager Greg Keys said MPI received information in October 2011 that Mr
Neilson was milling and selling sawn indigenous timber.
MPI investigations found evidence of a range of transactions made by Neilson and a co-defendant, Bennett
Cameron Hutching, including delivering loads of native timber to an Auckland timber merchant, milling matai and rimu from the Waimana area without approval of any kind, and offering a quantity of milled totara, rimu and matai for sale to a Wellington timber merchant.
Charges against the co-offender Hutching were withdrawn following Neilson's guilty plea.
More than $50,000 worth of seized timber was also forfeit to the Crown with a judicial recommendation that it be returned to the local hapu.
Mr Keys said Neilson was familiar with the requirements of the Forests Act, having been a registered sawmiller
from 1999 to 2002.
"The nature of this of fence is serious. The laws relating to our indigenous forests should be vigorously applied
and should be complied with for a range of reasons, most significantly to protect New Zealand's natural
resources and environment.''