27 Jan 2016

Judge's cattle in lake for years - neighbour

6:19 pm on 27 January 2016

A Canterbury holiday home owner has been complaining for 15 years about cattle owned by the chief justice and her husband having access to lakes in the high country but nothing has been done, he says.

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Cows wade in Lake Taylor, next to a DoC campsite. Photo: Supplied

Dame Sian Elias and businessman Hugh Fletcher are being investigated by the Canterbury regional council after cattle they own were photographed standing in a lake.

Edward Snowdon - who has a bach on Loch Katrine - said he had seen cattle in the lake "many times".

He said he had made numerous complaints to the council and the Department of Conservation, but nothing had ever been done.

He told Checkpoint with John Campbell the station manager usually told the authorities the cattle had escaped through gates or fences.

But Mr Snowdon said the cattle were deliberately put in those areas.

"I believe the station has an attitude that it's business and they will take no regard of the values of the area, which are extremely high. It's a landscape of national significance and they just refuse to basically acknowledge that these places deserve protection."

Labour's environment and water spokesperson David Parker said the rule of law applied to everyone.

"No matter how powerful or unknown you are and actually I'm sure they would agree so if they've breached the law then I'm sure they'll be held to account appropriately by the regional council."

Mr Parker said if the couple had breached the law, then he expected they would not make the same mistake twice.

This time it's Otago

Further south, pictures showing cattle wandering in waterways in Otago were also sent to RNZ News following the complaint over cattle belonging to the pair.

Cattle in Matukituki Valley

The new series of photos are said to show cattle in the Matukituki Valley. Photo: SUPPLIED

The photographs show livestock freely roaming in the water, which is said to be in the Matukituki Valley - just off the Rob Roy Glacier Track.

Cate Brett, who sent the pictures from Otago, said the animals were fouling the environment over the New Year's period.

"With tourists all around us on the track... everyone was commenting on the irony of the DoC [Department of Conservation] signage on the track while cattle and sheep defecated in this magnificent snow-fed river.

"Crazy stuff and hard to explain to the tourists [who] were aghast at the sight of cows urinating and defecating straight into the water."

She questioned why cattle were allowed to be grazing in the DoC-controlled area, when the department strictly enforced rules to keep dogs on a leash.

Cattle in Matukituki Valley

This photo, and the photo below it, were also sent from Otago by Cate Brett. Photo: SUPPLIED

Cattle in Matukituki Valley

Photo: SUPPLIED

Hayley Bryan was tramping in the area when the photos were taken and said she was horrified to see cattle defecating in an Otago river.

"It seems ridiculous that cows can stand in a river that's glacial fed, and defecate."

The Department of Conservation has today contacted the farmer whose cattle were seen wandering in the waterways.

DOC has so far not said what - if any - action was being taken against the farmer.

However, the Otago Regional Council said it had no complaints and that going by the photos, the water protection rules did not appear to have been breached.

National guidelines needed

Land and Water Forum chairman Alastair Bisley said the photographs reinforced the need for national rules on stock exclusion from rivers and lakes.

The group which advises the government on freshwater management released a report last year recommending all stock be excluded from most waterways by 2030.

Mr Bisley would not comment on individual cases but said there would be a better chance of stopping it if national rules were in place.

"We should not just rely on voluntary arrangements about...there should be a national level regime which respects the different circumstances farmers have to deal with," he said.

"Some regional councils have rules...some don't, they're not all the same. We think for the sake of making as big a step forward as we can, there are national rules and then of course it's up to councils to enforce them."

The Green Party is calling for steeper fines for farmers who allow cattle to roam freely in waterways.

Water spokesperson Catherine Delahunty said a $750 fine was not likely to act as a deterrent.

"Voluntary [guidelines] is not cutting it and we've seen that with the response that we had about the Lake Taylor incident that making it voluntary doesn't work," she said.

"I'm aware that Government is talking about a requirement to fence all dairy cows out n the next two years, but it's not just dairy cows, it should be all stock.

"Fresh water should be fresh water, it should not be a toilet for large land animals."

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy would not be interviewed because the Canterbury Regional Council is investigating the Hugh Fletcher and Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias case.

In a statement he said there will public consultation this year on the Land and Water Forum's recommendations.

Environment Canterbury to meet with Lakes Station owners

Mr Fletcher, a former chief executive of Fletcher Challenge, told RNZ News yesterday Lake Taylor was fenced off from his cattle at Lakes Station, but he did occasionally let them into the lake for a drink on hot days.

Marty Mortiaux, consents and compliance manager at Environment Canterbury, said it was breaking regional rules and an investigating officer would meet with Dame Sian and Mr Fletcher face-to-face.

He said the maximum fine that could be imposed was $750, and the infringement fines were set in the Resource Management Act.

There was a complaint in 2013 about cattle in the lake he said.

Mr Mortiaux said on that occasion Environment Canterbury spoke to the farm manager who undertook to prevent stock entering the lake again. No fine was imposed on that occasion.

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