A secret video recording of a Northland trucking boss reveals he appeared to have told an employee to manipulate his logbook or risk being fired.

It was played out in Auckland's High Court on Monday during a hearing over NZ Transport Agency's bid to quash the licence of Stan Semenoff Logging.

The recording was of a conversation held between one of the company's owners, Stan Semenoff, and a former employee about when he should take his breaks.

Every five and a half hours New Zealand truck drivers must take a 30-minute break according to the NZTA website, regardless if they have taken breaks during the period.


In the recording, the driver told his boss he was taking breaks on the side of the road, "doing legal for my logbook".

However, Semenoff said a colleague of the driver had removed hours from the driver's timesheet because he was taking breaks when he shouldn't.

Stan Semenoff. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Stan Semenoff. Photo / Michael Cunningham

"When you come and work for me, I told you out there, you work under my conditions and my rules," he said in the recording.

"Everyone else is. You're the only one that's not doing it ... you know what you're doing, you're trying to draw hours out and that's bad."

Semenoff told the driver he should then take breaks when they are on the port or on the skids, like the rest of his employees.

Going into further detail, it appears the former Whangārei mayor said the technique would help the driver evade police detection.

"I know the policeman says you've got to stop, f*** him, he's not doing, he's not, he's not doing the company much," he said.

"They can't catch you, they won't catch you, and that's the way these boys do it."

Stan Semenoff Logging yard and offices, Whangarei. Photo / John Stone
Stan Semenoff Logging yard and offices, Whangarei. Photo / John Stone

Following the hearing on Monday, the judge explained the secret recording shared between Semenoff and the former employee was unfair to the employer.

It was "inherently unfair to Mr Semenoff because had he known he was being recorded he may have explained more carefully what he was trying to convey to his employee", the judge noted.

But there was also a strong public interest in open reporting of the case, he said.

So the video and transcript would be made available to media organisations present at the hearing, he ruled.

However, it appears Stan Semenoff Logging has won another round in court against the NZ Transport Authority which wants to revoke its licence to operate.

Justice Christian Whata in the High Court at Auckland granted Semenoff's application to challenge the authority by temporarily granting a stay on the action before Semenoff Logging's application for a full judicial review of the state's actions.

Full decision here.

That means the business retains its licence to operate - an issue raised by Association Transport Minister Shane Jones last month but criticised by National for his involvement in the matter.

NZTA v Whangarei trucker Semenoff: back in court next month

"The interim order preserving SSL's position will be continued," the judge said in today's decision.

That ruling says that from July 2016 to March this year, the authority audited Semenoff's operations and found many deficiencies, including 116 traffic offences, 158 log book infringements, "a large number" of speeding complaints and vehicles failing to comply.

But Semenoff challenged that in court saying seven of the eight drivers in a 2017 audit no longer worked for the company which had taken action on speeding with use of text message distribution.

The judge said he was satisfied that the authority's concerns were justified: "The number and duration of the non-compliances suggests a systemic problem."

But he said he needed to balance that against advice from Stan Semenoff and general manager Daron​ Turner that they had 90 years of experience between them "with no record of any fatal incidents involving trucks under their control."

So the interim court order was appropriate, pending determination of a substantive review proceeding or an appeal, the judge said.