'Selfish' farmer destroyed wetland
Tuamarina farmer Philip Woolley could be sentenced to four months' prison or 10 months' home detention on four charges related to a drainage channel he dug into a Department of Conservation wetland near Rarangi, a judge indicated this week.
Judge Stephen Harrop described them as the latest in a long string of environmental offences.
He agreed with Crown prosecutor Jackson Webber's statement that Woolley's offending was characterised by arrogance, aggression and selfishness and delayed sentencing so a probation officer could decide if Woolley's home at Tuamarina was suitable for a sentence of home detention.
Woolley appeared in the Blenheim District Court for sentencing on Tuesday, on charges of disturbing a riverbed, depositing soil and vegetation in a riverbed and two of using land in a matter that broke a district rule.
The charges related to an incident in May 2010 when Woolley dug a drainage channel into the Hinepango wetland, near Rarangi.
Woolley drove into a rare wetland owned by DOC and crushed and destroyed the vegetation, Judge Harrop said.
He did not stop excavating the land until about 15 minutes after he was requested to do so by a DOC officer. The wetland area was nationally significant and little of the original vegetation remained. The vegetation was not pristine and included crack willow trees, recognised as a weed, but it housed native species, including a rare and threatened swamp nettle.
Woolley excavated a channel 270 metres long, up to 3m wide and 2m deep without permission to do so, the judge said.
He did not accept the claim submitted by defence lawyer David Clark that Woolley knew about the regional plan and thought the plan allowed maintenance of a drainage channel.
"You knew very well you were not allowed to do what you did," the judge said. "A reasonable person would have checked with DOC but you didn't because you knew what the answer would have been."
He did not accept Woolley's conduct as justified. "You wantonly destroyed a good deal of vegetation. You did it for selfish reasons so you would get increased productivity on your farm."
There was no remorse shown at any stage, Judge Harrop said.
"In my view, what you did was arrogant and selfish," he said.
"You put your own interests ahead of the environment."
Woolley's attitude had been "appalling" from the beginning to the end, he said. "Clearly you are of the view still that you haven't done anything wrong."
Woolley declined to take part in an interview process for a pre-sentencing report and did not turn up on time for an interview with probation. Another appointment had been arranged but Woolley did not go as he was in Murchison at the time.
"You have been unco-operative, abrasive, and disruptive through the pre-sentencing process," Judge Harrop said.
He deferred the final sentencing to September 10 so probation could consider his address in Tuamarina for home detention. If it was not approved, a prison sentence would be imposed but if it was approved, he would be sentenced to home detention, Judge Harrop said.
- The Marlborough Express