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Cross-party work deals to rustlers

Stock rustling costing farmers is estimated to $120 million a year. PHOTO/FILE

PAM GRAHAM

Labour says it’s stopping rural communities from being fleeced by “roping in the rustlers” and local Labour MP Kieran McAnulty says he worked with National MP Ian McKelvie and others to do it.

Parliament has passed the Crimes Amendment Bill, which adds two new offences to the Crimes Act 1961.

The crime of theft of livestock or other animal has a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment and ten years in jail is possible for unlawful entry to land used for agricultural purposes, where the offender intends to steal livestock or act unlawfully against specified things, such as buildings or machinery.

McAnulty says previously theft of stock was always covered by criminal law but it wasn’t a specific crime and that was an inadequate approach.

Stock rustling costing farmers is estimated to $120 million a year.

Rangitikei MP McKelvie, a farmer, took up the issue with a private members bill, which was selected from the ballot, passed a fist ready and make it to the Primary Production Select Committee that McAnulty is deputy chair of.

It stalled at the committee stages on advice from Ministry of Justice officials that it was not workable the way it was written.

McAnulty said all the submitters like Federated Farmers said there needed to be change.

Kieran McAnulty. PHOTO/FILE

“Being a bit of a politics nerd I had an idea in my head as to how we might be able to find a way forward so on the quiet I drafted a supplementary orders paper,” he said.

The SOP was to the Crimes Amendment Bill which thus far was dealing with removing things the law of blasphemous libel, which could see someone thrown in jail for a year for saying bad things about God.

McAnulty’s SOP was seeking to add rustling as a crime.

“I did it on the quiet because I was a new MP and didn’t want to make a fool of myself by suggesting an idea that wasn’t going to work.”

He thought he had cracked it but was told the bill was about removing things, not adding them in.

He was told if he can get the approval of every party in the house and the Minister of Justice the SOP could proceed.

“I went to Ian McKelvie and I said I have found a way forward — will you come with me and he said yes of course we will.

“So both of us went to the Minister of Justice (Andrew Little) and he approved it so it was included in the bill,” he said.

He said the passing of the bill was a good demonstration of cross-party co-operation.

“I am really pleased.”

There was still some argy bargy though, as Labour’s Little tweeted yesterday that the Government has shown its commitment to roping in the rustlers. It’s about wellbeing for rural communities and National’s Andrew Falloon tweeted in response: “once again Labour get it wrong. The bill doesn’t outlaw livestock rustling, it’s already illegal, rather it increases the penalties. He congratulations McKelvie for shepherding it through parliament.

New Zealand First spokesperson for Primary Industries, Mark Patterson was also taking credit and saying an even more comprehensive approach is needed.

“We have advocated for the need for such legislation and pushed for this throughout our coalition negotiations. This is a longstanding New Zealand First policy, he said.

“New Zealand First’s member’s bill, drafted by Hon Ron Mark, provided for the confiscation of assets used in the commissioning of the crime like in the Fisheries Act. This allows trucks, quads, cars, trailers, freezers and property used to hold the livestock prior to on selling, to be confiscated.

The bill is an appropriate interim step to prevent this abhorrent crime.

“Livestock rustling does not only impact the economic aspects of farming, it results in severe cases of animal cruelty. When animals are stolen, they are killed without consideration of the humane practises farms are required to undertake.”

Federated Farmers rural security spokesperson Miles Anderson said the issue struck a chord with MPs who widely support the change.

“It’s not just about the tens of millions of dollars that livestock rustling costs farming families every year. It’s also the distress of finding butchered animals left to die in paddocks, and the dangers involved in farmers having to go out, often on their own and at night, to investigate something suspicious and not knowing whether the stranger/s on their property are carrying weapons.”

A Federated Farmers survey in 2016 showed one in four farmers had been hit by stock thieves at least once in the previous five years.

Anderson says because the maximum penalty for the offences exceeds five years, equipment used in the course of the offending – including vehicles used at the time or later purchased from proceeds – will be subject to forfeiture under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009.

“So that’s pretty much everything Federated Farmers sought from the law changes. We thank all MPs – but particularly Kieran McAnulty and Andrew Little (Labour) and Ian McKelvie (National) and members of the Primary Production Select Committee – for standing up and being counted on this.”

“I think it also underlines how the advocacy work by Federated Farmers – a banner under which all rural New Zealanders can work together – can bring about change and save money for all who work the land to build livelihoods and the primary production that underpins our economy,” Anderson says.

Federated Farmers Wairarapa president William Beetham has previously revealed he had been a victim of stock rustling twice in the last five years.

William Beetham. PHOTO/FILE

“A few years ago, we had 29 lambs taken off a paddock, the next morning we found the carcasses in the river.

“The financial impact is significant, stock are worth a lot of money, but the emotional impact is also important because farmers work so hard to raise their stock,” he told the Times-Age.

Because farmers operate on such small margins, a big stock theft could eat up an entire year’s profits, Beetham said, and the issue had created some tensions between police and farmers.

“One of the tensions between police and community is that a lot of animal thefts are unreported.

He said in some cases large numbers of animals disappearing and they’d have to be organised outfits.”

Last year a West Otago farmer discovered the theft of 65 in-calf dairy cows — worth about $130,000 — from his property.

Police have said rural communities need to be alert and it they saw a truck loading stock from your neighbour’s place, note down the colour and licence plate.

The Crimes Amendment Bill also repeals the year and a day law, which prevents people being charged for causing someone’s death if they died more than ‘one year and a day’ after the criminal act.

The law has prevented charges in recent years including in relation to the collapse of the CTV building in the 2011 Christchurch earthquake which killed 115 people.

The Bill also changes the law that currently says someone can be charged with accessory after the fact, if they help someone commit a crime, unless they’re a person’s spouse or civil union partner. It removes that protection for spouses or partners.

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