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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