Significant fine for illegal milling of native timber

Media contact: Lesley Patston
Telephone: 029 894 0163

A Whakatane man has been fined $15,000 plus a further $15,000 in reparation to the Ministry for Primary Industries for milling indigenous timber.

The defendant Stuart McKenzie Neilson pleaded guilty to illegally milling approx 17 m3 of rimu and matai, part way through the recent defended hearing in the Whakatane District Court.

The court heard that under the Forests Act, indigenous timber can only be produced from forests which are managed in a way that maintains continuous forest cover and ecological balance.

Controls on sawmills mean they may only mill logs of indigenous species sourced from forests managed according to sustainable management plans or permits, or other approved sources.  Indigenous timber may only be milled on registered sawmills and only after consent is granted by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) under the Act.

The Ministry's northern compliance manager Greg Keys says MPI received information in October 2011 that Mr Neilson was milling and selling sawn indigenous timber.

MPI investigations found evidence of a range of transactions made by Neilsen and a co-defendant, Bennett Cameron Hutching, including delivering loads of native timber to an Auckland timber merchant, milling matai and rimu from the Waimana area without approval of any kind, and offering a quantity of milled totara, rimu and matai for sale to a Wellington timber merchant.

Charges against the co-offender Bennett Hutching were withdrawn following Neilson's guilty plea.

Over $50,000 worth of seized timber was also forfeit to the Crown with a judicial recommendation that it be returned to the local Hapu.

Greg Keys says Stuart Neilson was familiar with the requirements of the Forests Act, having been a registered sawmiller from 1999 to 2002.

"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." 

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