Harness racer cops community service for failing to declare biosecurity hazard

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Media contact: William Minchin

A Christchurch harness racer was sentenced yesterday in the Christchurch District Court to 120 hours of community service for knowingly making a false declaration to Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) quarantine inspectors in August last year.

Anthony Murray Butt, an experienced harness racer, did not declare soiled harness racing driving equipment when he arrived at Christchurch International Airport from Sydney.

When questioned by a quarantine inspector, Mr Butt said that he had not been riding horses when he was in Australia. When asked about his dirty clothing, Mr Butt said that it came from New Zealand.

Subsequent investigations, including analysis of video footage, clearly showed that this was not the case and Mr Butts had been racing in the clothing and equipment in question.

“Equine biosecurity is taken very seriously by MPI, as horse racing contributes a significant amount to the New Zealand economy,” says Canterbury/Westland Compliance Manager, Peter Hyde.

“Concerns around the deadly Hendra virus mean that those travelling from Australia need to take special care that they have decontaminated any equipment that may pose a biosecurity risk.

“The offending is made all the more serious in this case as Mr Butt knowingly made a false declaration after being potentially exposed to an extremely serious biosecurity risk. As a professional involved in the horse racing industry he is well aware of the risks posed to the industry by Hendra and other biosecurity threats.”

The maximum penalty for knowingly making a false declaration is twelve months imprisonment and/or a fine of $50,000.

“Our vigilant quarantine inspectors are keeping our border safe 24/7 but we also need the public to help us protect New Zealand from biosecurity risks. This case shows the biosecurity system is working well.”

For further information around the risks posed to New Zealand by the Hendra virus, please see the MPI website - http://www.biosecurity.govt.nz/pests/hendra-virus

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