Two farmers raise fears of 'another Feilding'
Fears have been raised there may be "another Feilding" unless two Southland farmers embroiled in a bitter and sometimes violent dispute for the past two years settle down.
North Invercargill farming neighbours Iain MacGregor and Steven Douglas have been at loggerheads since 2010, resulting in two assault convictions, ongoing verbal abuse and many phone calls to police.
Mr MacGregor said yesterday he feared for his safety when alone on the West Plains Rd farm he co-leases with the father of Mr Douglas, Syd Douglas.
"He [Steven Douglas] threatens to smash my head in; I am concerned. Do we want another Feilding?" he asked, referring to the shotgun murder of Feilding farmer Scott Guy.
"I want police to intervene and stop this from escalating further, because it will ... he will do something sinister soon because he doesn't like my presence on the farm. He is trying to push me out, but tough luck, I am legally allowed to be here."
The bad blood between the two men goes back two years.
Steven Douglas was the original leaseholder on the West Plains farm that the two men are warring over. Over a 20-year timespan he had spent about $300,000 on improvements to the 109 hectares of Environment Southland-owned land before he got behind in lease payments, he said.
Environment Southland subsequently took the lease off him and his father took over the lease.
Mr MacGregor, who was working on the farm, then "slimed his way in" to take over a share of the lease, Steven Douglas said.
"I have built that place up and I am not giving it away to a lying piece of s... like him," he added.
Mr Douglas and Mr Macgregor had a string of complaints against each other when spoken to by The Southland Times yesterday, with the venom between them palpable.
When The Times visited Mr Douglas, who was fencing on his father's neighbouring farm, he said he was also afraid of Mr MacGregor.
He pointed to skidmarks in the paddock, saying Mr MacGregor had tried to run him over the previous day.
"It's not called the West Plains, it's the f...... wild west," he said.
Mr Douglas described Mr MacGregor as a "nutter", saying he wanted his own name back on the lease "or they can pay me out".
He said he had twice been convicted of assaulting Mr MacGregor but, despite laying about six complaints of assault against Mr MacGregor, no charges had been laid.
Mr MacGregor, who said he had lodged dozens of complaints with police about Mr Douglas' behaviour, wanted Mr Douglas prosecuted for trespass, saying he had put his cows on his farm without his permission and worked the farm as if it were his own.
It is understood trespass charges have never been laid against Mr Douglas because his father, as a co-lessee, will not agree to laying charges.
Syd Douglas said yesterday that there was room for both men on the farm and he wanted the fighting to stop. He displayed bruised wrists, saying he got them on Wednesday when trying to keep the two men apart.
Sergeant Brock Davis, of Invercargill, said yesterday that there had been numerous calls to police about disputes between leaseholders and workers on the farm in the past two years.
Police investigated whenever complaints were laid, he said.
Environment Southland acting chief executive Graham Alsweiler yesterday confirmed Mr MacGregor and Syd Douglas jointly held a lease over the Environment Southland-owned land on West Plains Rd, but indicated the council was steering clear of the dispute.
"We are aware there are issues between the lessees and Mr Steven Douglas ... the land is leased to Mr MacGregor and Mr Douglas (senior) jointly and the lease requires them to manage activities on the land, not us."
Steven Douglas and Mr MacGregor argued loudly when The Times visited the farm yesterday, with Mr Douglas hurling abuse across the paddock at Mr MacGregor.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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