Andrew Little, Minister of Justice

Government tackles rustling

by Ann van Engelen

New rules to crack down on livestock rustling will come into force following the passing of the Crimes Amendment bill.

“For too long farmers have been urging successive governments to assist in their battle against the scourge of livestock rustling. This coalition government listened, and now we have changed the law,” says Minister of Justice, Andrew Little.

“Farmers and rural communities make a huge contribution to the wellbeing of New Zealand and our economy. Meanwhile, livestock rustlers have undermined rural people’s livelihoods and their right to be safe in their homes.

“The two new offences send a clear message that this coalition government will not tolerate livestock rustling, whether it is sheep, cattle, beehives, sheepdogs or other animals that are stolen or harmed.

“Today is a new era, where we have finally classified livestock rustling as it should be, as criminal offences in our criminal code. Importantly, this step also gives police and the courts the tools they need to rope in the rustlers.

“Federated Farmers estimates the cost of theft of livestock to the farming community at over $120 million every year, and a survey indicates about a quarter of their members had stock stolen in the last five years.” These crimes are often committed at night in the more remote parts of New Zealand. Small-scale, opportunistic grabs of half a dozen sheep or cows are relatively common, but police and MPI say sophisticated gangs with links to organised crime are increasingly mounting well-planned raids on farms.

Victims of livestock rustling and a survey of more than 1,000 farmers showed almost 60 per cent of thefts had not been reported to police. In one case a one Whanganui farmer lost 1,400 lambs worth about $120,000. “The new offences, which will be added to the Crimes Act 1961 are theft of livestock or other animal, carrying a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment, unlawful entry to land used for agricultural purposes, where the offender intends to steal livestock or act unlawfully against specified things, such as buildings or machinery, on that land. That offence carries up to 10 years imprisonment.”