Council worker 'changed document'

EVAN HARDING
Last updated 05:00 25/10/2012

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Environment Southland has been accused of changing a statement by police in order to prosecute a Riverton trucking company for spilling effluent on to the road.

The document tampering allegation has been made by Riverton trucking company Euan Shearing Contracting and its Dunedin lawyer, Colin Withnall QC.

A driver for the Riverton trucking company was pulled over at Dipton on May 31 last year in a joint Environment Southland and police sting in which stock trucks were being checked for effluent spillage.

Truck company boss Euan Shearing said the driver and the police officer, Senior Constable Anthony Vincent, walked around the truck with an Environment Southland investigation form checking for effluent spillage. Mr Vincent filled in the form saying there had been "nil" discharge of effluent from the truck.

Despite this, Environment Southland subsequently sent Mr Shearing two fines of $750, one for the driver and one for the company, for discharging effluent from the truck, Mr Shearing said.

An Environment Southland enforcement officer had altered the police statement, he claimed.

A court submission featuring a copy of the police statement says there was "nil" effluent discharge from the truck; but the word "nil" has been crossed out and written underneath are the words "discharge - no tanks on truck."

Mr Shearing said the truck was not discharging effluent when it was pulled over and the truck did have storage tanks, despite Environment Southland claiming otherwise.

Mr Vincent signed a sworn affidavit that was tabled in court last week saying the truck was empty of stock and when it was stopped there was nil discharge of effluent "and this was noticed when the vehicle drove away as well".

"This was noted on the form in my writing . . . subsequent to completing this form I notice this form has been altered," his affidavit says.

Mr Shearing said he believed an Environment Southland compliance officer had changed the form and he wanted him sacked from his job, saying he had put factually incorrect information on the form.

Environment Southland took the case to the Invercargill District Court last Tuesday but withdrew the charges against both Mr Shearing's truck company and the truck driver.

Mr Shearing is now seeking costs from Environment Southland, saying he spent about $9000 in legal fees fighting the two $750 fines.

Environment Southland chief executive Rob Phillips yesterday declined to comment, saying the matter was before the courts and he had received legal advice not to discuss the issue.

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"I can say I have complete faith in my people and their integrity and our processes," he said.

- The Southland Times

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