by Vin Smith, general manager of policy, planning and regulatory services
The investigation into a complaint relating to a property that Environment Southland deputy chairman Lloyd McCallum is a director of has been completed. No enforcement action will be taken.
The complaint was investigated in accordance with Council policy, in the same way as all complaints are managed, however we took some additional measures, which are mentioned below.
The Council doesn’t ordinarily provide a statement following the completion of an investigation, but is doing so in this case because it relates to an Environment Southland councillor.
The following is a brief summary of our process and the outcome of the investigation.
Environment Southland received an email from a member of the public on 4 May 2020, expressing concerns about cattle being fed on a riverbed on the Oreti River. One photo was supplied with the complaint. The property was not immediately identified and the complaint was triaged according to Environment Southland’s incident prioritisation protocol and the restrictions of COVID Alert Level 3 in place at the time.
When the investigation commenced, the property was identified as belonging to Strone Farms Ltd, of which Environment Southland deputy chairman Lloyd McCallum is one of four directors. An initial site visit was undertaken on 8 June.
An extensive investigation was conducted, which determined the following points:
- The paddock in question had been used to feed stock and was completely fenced off from the river. There was no evidence to suggest any contaminant discharges to land that may lead to water.
- In relation to the cows being within a river bed, an assessment was made based on photos of the property and latest case law, which established the area is not the bed of a river.
- Although Rule 35a of the proposed Southland Water and Land Plan may require consent, Section 20a of the Resource Management Act authorises it under an existing use rights provision, without the need for a resource consent at this point in time. Therefore, the activity was not unlawful.
All investigations conducted by Environment Southland are required to meet the Solicitor General’s prosecution guidelines. Enforcement action cannot be taken unless an identifiable breach is established to the requisite evidential standard. The investigation did not identify any such breach.
Environment Southland also sought legal advice to ensure correct interpretation of the relevant rules as they relate to the existing use rights.
As the complaint involved an Environment Southland councillor, we requested that the Environmental Protection Authority review the relevant investigation files. The EPA found that, based on the information provided by Environment Southland, no offence had occurred and therefore the decision not to take formal enforcement action was appropriate.
No action will be taken and the investigation is now closed.
Note: The rules in the proposed Southland Water and Land Plan have legal effect. However, the plan itself won’t be fully operative until it is finalised through the legal process (currently at the appeals stage with the Environment Court). Existing use rights under the Resource Management Act apply for six months after the plan has been finalised by the court, allowing time for people to apply for appropriate resource consents where needed. For more information about consents and existing use rights, visit: https://www.es.govt.nz/environment/consents/which-rules-apply