A harness driver who brought dirty gear back from an Australian race has been sentenced to 120 hours' community service after making a false declaration to quarantine inspectors at Christchurch airport.

Anthony Butt, an experienced harness racer, failed to declare soiled racing driving equipment when he arrived from Sydney in August last year, the Ministry for Primary Industries said today.

Butt was questioned by a quarantine inspector and said that he had not been racing when he was in Australia.

When asked about his dirty clothing, Butt said it came from New Zealand.


Subsequent investigations, including analysis of video footage, clearly showed that this was not the case and Butt had been racing in the clothing and equipment.

Peter Hyde, MPI Canterbury/Westland compliance manager, said equine biosecurity was taken very seriously as horse racing contributed a significant amount to the New Zealand economy.

"Concerns around the deadly hendra virus mean that those travelling from Australia need to take special care that they have decontaminated any equipment that may pose a biosecurity risk. The offending is made all the more serious in this case as Mr Butt knowingly made a false declaration after being potentially exposed to an extremely serious biosecurity risk.

"As a professional involved in the horse racing industry he is well aware of the risks posed to the industry by hendra and other biosecurity threats.''