Directors avoid court in animal welfare case

MARTY SHARPE
Last updated 05:00 08/02/2013

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Directors of a company involved with a large-scale animal welfare case have avoided prosecution because one is terminally ill and the other is in Australia and "could not be compelled to return to New Zealand".

Greg Morris, now living in Queensland, and Raymond Tasman Schofield, who is terminally ill, were directors of Taupo-based Wedderburn Properties, which is now insolvent.

The company bought more than 1900 livestock from Stockco and ran them on a large farm block and forest land leased from Lake Brunner Station on the West Coast.

The Ministry of Primary Industries investigated the farm in August last year after a tipoff. They found many emaciated cattle, and had to kill about 65 animals that were too sick to survive being moved.

Wedderburn employee Tjeerd Luutzen Ane Visser, 21, appeared in the Christchurch District Court in September and was sentenced to 175 hours' community work after admitting two charges of failing to meet the physical health needs of his dairy cows.

Details provided to The Dominion Post under the Official Information Act show that the ministry "found there was prima facie evidence against Wedderburn Properties Ltd and its directors in relation to the commission of animal welfare offences".

But Mr Morris "could not be compelled to return to New Zealand", Mr Schofield was terminally ill, and the company was insolvent and could not pay a fine, so the ministry decided against prosecuting.

The ministry's director of compliance, Dean Baigent, said the decision had been made after considering the seriousness of the offence, public interest, and the prospects of a successful prosecution.

Receivership of Wedderburn ended in December with the company debt standing at $1 million.

The debt, owed to Stockco, was assigned to Marac Finance for an undisclosed sum. IRD had claimed $22,000, and Mr Visser and a fellow worker $153,510 in unpaid wages. Neither amount was paid.

Mr Schofield was also facing charges by the Serious Fraud Office over his involvement with Belgrave Finance. He was given conditional stay of proceedings, because of his illness.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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