Government looks to get tough on rustlers

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By SHELLEY TOPP

Tough new measures to deter livestock thefts have been announced by Justice Minister Andrew Little.

Rustlers now face a maximum of seven years in prison while those entering a farm unlawfully can face 10 years imprisonment under a supplementary order paper (SOP) introduced last week by the minister.

Mr Little says every party has indicated they will support it, as the Government seeks to get it to a select committee for consideration. “Farmers have told us about the toll the scourge of livestock rustling is having on their livelihoods and quality of life,” he says.

“This Government recognises the contribution farmers and rural people make to New Zealand and our economy. Their contributions should not be undermined by the theft of their livestock.” Federated Farmers estimates the cost of livestock theft is now more than $120 million annually.

North Canterbury Federated Farmers’ president Cameron Henderson says a few high-profile cases of cattle rustling have occurred in North Canterbury but he believes far more cases of small-scale rustling occur which may only involve a few animals from roadside paddocks.

“All incidents of rustling are theft and have a serious impact on the animal owners,” he says.

“It is great to see this impact recognised by the Government with new penalties. Like all penalties for theft, it won’t eliminate the issue completely and farmers will still need to be vigilant in protecting their own stock with locked roadside gates and regular stock observation, but it sends a very clear message that it will be treated seriously by authorities and hopefully reduce the number of cases substantially.”

Rural Women New Zealand president Fiona Gower says the changes will be a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done to protect rural communities.

“Livestock rustling is the bane of every rural community and we are pleased the Government has heard our calls for support.

“However, recent news about the reduction in hours in some regional police stations means that crime will continue to be an issue for rural communities.”