A National Park man has been fined $4,000 plus court costs, and a further $1,500 in reparation to the Ministry for Primary Industries for milling indigenous timber.
The defendant, Stephen Albert Fahey, pleaded guilty at the Palmerston North District Court on Thursday 28 February to illegally milling Matai and Rata timber in contravention of section 67D of the Forests Act 1949.
The court heard that under the Forests Act 1949 indigenous timber can only be harvested in a sustainable way to ensure the forest is protected; in particular the regenerating forest, plus flora, fauna, soils and water quality are maintained.
Controls on sawmills means a person may only mill indigenous timber on a sawmill registered with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), and only after they ensure the timber has a current approval issued by MPI allowing that timber to be harvested and milled.
The Ministry's northern compliance manager Greg Keys said in May 2012 MPI identified that Fahey was trying to sell sawn indigenous timber which had been milled on his property however he didn’t have a registered sawmill, nor did he have a current approval of any kind.
In June 2012 a search warrant was executed by Forestry Investigators at Fahey’s property where they located a portable sawmill in a shed and approximately 2.5m3 of sawn and filleted Rata. There were also a number of Rata logs at and near the sawmill site which had recently been dragged there out of the nearby indigenous forest.
The Investigators also found evidence which showed that Fahey had already sold approximately 2.6m3 of sawn Matai to a timber merchant, and was in the process of trying to sell the same merchant approximately 2.5m3 of sawn Rata.
Greg Keys says Mr Fahey was well aware of his obligations under the Forests Act as he and his partner were advised by MPI on a number of occasions between 1998 and 2008 about having to obtain an approval prior to harvesting and/or milling indigenous timber and about having to register their sawmill before it could be used to mill indigenous timber.
"The nature of this offence is serious. The laws relating to our indigenous forests should be vigorously applied and should be complied with for a range of reasons, most significantly to protect New Zealand's natural resources and environment."