Does the law not apply to the Chief Justice?

It seems that laws don’t apply to the Chief Justice.

Cows owned by top judge Dame Sian Elias have wandered into Canterbury waterways at least three times since a warning issued in January.

Stock from The Lakes station in North Canterbury have been in Lake Sumner, which could breach the rules, and in the Hurunui River.

Elias owns the station with her husband, businessman Hugh Fletcher.

Temporary farm manager Brian Anderson was aware only of one recent complaint. He said the farm did its best, but the rules were “ridiculous”.

“The cows can drink from the lake, but the moment one puts a foot in you’re breaking the rules. They can stand in the river, but can’t walk another metre into the lake. It’s a bit pointless,” he said.

Environment Canterbury (ECan) issued Elias and Fletcher a warning after a holidaymaker photographed their cows standing in Lake Taylor, which borders a Department of Conservation (Doc) campsite, in January.

After an investigation, ECan determined they had breached the rules but stopped short of issuing a fine, saying it was an isolated incident.

Under regional rules, cows are allowed access to high country rivers, provided the environmental effects are minor. They are not allowed to stand in lakes. The maximum fine for breaching the rules is $750.

Fish poaching has stiffer penalties, but degrading and polluting water quality, not so much.

Since warning Elias and Fletcher over cows using Lake Taylor, ECan has received several reports about incidents on The Lakes station:

– In early February,  cows at the station were photographed standing by Lake Sumner, which is at the northern end of the property. It showed about about two dozen cows with unrestricted access to the lake. ECan was not informed of the alleged breach and therefore did not investigate.

– In March, ECan staff visited the station after receiving a complaint about cows standing near Lake Sumner two days earlier. ECan’s site visit found “minimal impact on the environment”, Hurunui-Waiau zone manager Kevin Heays said.

– In May,  about a dozen cows were photographed standing in the Hurunui River on the east of the station. The paddock was fenced, but the cows were on the river side of the fence, the photographer said. He said there was cow excrement on both sides of the river. Staff at the farm were spoken to once again by ECan, but no action was taken as it was reported too late to determine if it breached the rules.

Heays said ECan would follow up with the landowner in the coming weeks to ensure actions were being taken to keep stock away from lakes.

“These actions include things like permanent or temporary fencing, creating drinking wedges so stock can only access the water at one site, and stock exclusion from the immediate area around the lake.”

So not an isolated incident, wilful thumbing the nose at the law.

I can’t wait for a water related case to make it to the Supreme Court only for the Chief Justice to have to recuse herself for a conflict of interest.


– Fairfax


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  • Disinfectant

    Why is Ecan scared of the Chief Justice?

    She is neither above the law or criticism.

    • Somnambulist

      …or at least is not supposed to be.

  • JeffDaRef

    Where is the environmental warrior Anne Salmond on this???
    Or does she only wade into topics where she can criticise the government??

    The good Dame should probably muzzle the farm manager too – “No comment” is a wiser response than “Its a bit pointless”…

  • JEL51

    I look at it this way, a dozen or so dry-stock cattle stepping into the lakes edge for a drink on a hot summers day is not the same as 500 dairy cows wading through on the way to be milked or 50 campers possibly carrying hepatitis or other transferable diseases near by. Big difference in my eyes.

    • Sagacious Blonde

      Doubt you will find many 500 dairy cow herds wading through water to be milked these days. Dairy farmers are audited, regulated and levied into compliance by their milk companies, Dairy NZ and Councils.
      Still, it’s a convenient whipping-boy; think pollution, think dairy farmers.

      • JEL51

        Exactly my point. The hysteria around a few cattle beast has little in comparison to what had originally brought on the concerns about water-quality in the first place. The complainant is over-egging it probably because a ‘notable’ owns the farm, not so much out of concern for the environment (.. and I wouldn’t mind betting that same person is a hard core Marxist.)

  • Quinton Hogg

    The two instances of the cows in the lake have been dealt with by Ecan.
    The most recent complaint seems to relate to cows in the Hurinui River which is permitted if you read the story.
    Still it isn’t a good look and i would expect that the river will be fenced off shortly.

  • shykiwibloke

    Alert the Eco-warriors. Bound to be threatening a Hectors dolphin or two!

  • Ruahine

    Surely this must be question in the House tomorrow for one of the unelected Green MPs.

    I nominate one of the sisterhood, Metirei Turei.

    I understand she is always out in the mountains and the wetlands and waterways planting trees and setting and checking traplines in the Forests of New Zealand, every chance she gets to set a good example to all of her colleagues.

  • Bruno 32

    Not a good look but the Canadian geese in the background are probably a bigger threat to the environment than a few beefies having a drink

  • TM

    The Chief Justice was a Labour political appointment and she thinks she above the law. Along with her husband who nearly managed to destroy one of NZ greatest companies, she is well past her use by date.

    • Aucky

      Unfortunately TM you are incorrect. She was appointed by Jenny Shipley. I agree with the rest of your post.

    • Mighty1

      Why is this not a termed position say 4 years max?

  • stephen2d

    I love it how Chief Justice’s employee (a.k.a. the farm manager) says the law is “ridiculous” and implies it shouldn’t strictly be adhered to. Hah!

  • Davo42

    I’d sooner take a swim in lake Sumner (cow poop and all) than dip my little toe in the River Ganges, have you seen what they put in there? and it is supposed to be sacred – we don’t know how lucky we are.

  • Superman

    Sadly there are a few people above the law. Let any other farmer try something like this and he will be fined into bankruptcy.

  • Dave of the West Bank

    I had my wee say this morning on this on Whale Oil General Debate.

    Are we really saying that farmers all over NZ are to be criminalised if their stock wanders near any watercourse?

    What am I missing?

    Thousands upon thousands of creeks and streams feed the main rivers, and NIWA have a map here that may give an idea of the miles and miles of water that will need to be fenced off. Don’t people, even those reasonably enlightened denizens of this site, realise that NZ’s stock is not confined to just a few paddocks alongside the road? That perhaps thousands of head all over the country are in the hills and valleys producing for the NZ economy?

    And don’t mention the deer and the pigs and other wildlife that don’t care about fences and what city dwellers think.

    Come on Whale Oilers, have a think!

  • Keanne Lawrence

    A Chiefete of Justice. Nough said.