Jury finds farmer - not nature - diverted Taranaki stream
A Taranaki farmer has been found guilty of diverting a stream on his property - despite claiming it straightened naturally.
A New Plymouth District Court jury took about two hours to find Inglewood's Colin David Boyd guilty of eight charges of breaching the Resource Management Act.
The charges carry a maximum penalty of up to two years' imprisonment or a fine of up to $300,000.
They relate to Boyd diverting the Mangatengehu Stream, which runs from the base of Mt Taranaki across his farms on Surrey Rd before it joins the Waitara river.
* Taranaki farmer appears in district court facing a raft of charges after allegedly diverting stream
* Civil engineer mortified by diverted stream the district court hears
* Nature - not a digger - straightened stream, Taranaki farmer tells court
The Crown claimed Boyd dug a 430 metre channel so a 900m meandering section of the stream ran in a straight line - which affected the wildlife living in and around the stream.
Boyd's defence was that heavy rainfall caused flooding on his farm which resulted in the stream's altered course.
The trial, which began on Monday, was before Judge Craig Thompson, who has remanded Boyd for sentencing on August 26.
During his closing on Thursday crown prosecutor Justin Marinovich said there had been no significant alterations in the stream's path for at least 11 years and straightening it was something Boyd was considering and motivated to do.
"He was contemplating doing it but the heavens ended up doing it for him," Marinovich said, in relation to Boyd's defence.
"What Boyd wants you to believe is it continued for 400m, not only that but the shape of the 400m channel was efficiently cut walls and a straight body."
Marinovich said the jury should question why following the discovery of the newly-carved channel Boyd had agreed to reinstate the stream to its natural course.
"Why agree to an enforcement order setting out obligations to hire experts, to pay thousands of dollars to reinstate a stream when it was mother nature that carved out the channel?
"Why comply? Why agree if it was nature?"
He said Boyd had never mentioned during his discussions with the Taranaki Regional Council that natural forces had carved out the channel.
"It's astonishing really, if this was a natural event, he never mentioned that the flood carved this channel to anyone."
He said photos presented in evidence showed roots on the walls of the created channel were cut by a digger and not, as Boyd suggested, by his use of a root rake to remove debris from the ground.
Marinovich said before the work was carried out the stream had been a rich and thriving environment for wildlife which had been destroyed.
Defence lawyer Colin Withnall QC said the jury had to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Boyd had been responsible based on the evidence presented in court.
Withnall said the erosion that lead to the flood water carving out the channel had happened incrementally.
"It goes on and it goes on and eventually you get to a point where something has got to give and it gives," he said.
"This is something which is happening continually until a point is reached where something major happens."
Withnall said due to the nature of the ground in the area it was reasonably possible the flood water had cut the stream's new path.
"You can't exclude it being reasonably possible that this occurred as a result of a natural process."
The jury of eight women and three men, after one juror was discharged on Wednesday morning, retired to consider its verdict at 11.30am and returned to deliver its findings just after 1.30pm.
Withnall said it wouldn't be appropriate for his client to comment on the verdicts before sentencing.
Outside the court Boyd said it was a sad day and swung his briefcase at members of the media.