Cattle rustling now a crime
As noted in the Autumn edition of Rural eSpeaking, the newly minted Crimes Amendment Act has introduced two new offences aimed at addressing cattle rustling. The legislation came into force on 12 March 2019.
Federated Farmers has estimated that livestock thefts cost the farming community more than $120 million every year. Cattle rustling also causes biosecurity concerns associated with the movement of stock as well as the safety of farmers as firearms and other weapons are often involved with this kind of offending.
It is now a crime, punishable by up to seven years in prison, to steal livestock or any other animal (such as beehives and farm dogs). As well as theft, the unlawful entry onto land that is farmed – with the intention to steal livestock or to commit any other crime – is now an offence liable for up to 10 years’ imprisonment.
It is hoped that making the punishment more severe for these offences will deter prospective offenders and give a greater incentive for both farmers and police to pursue prosecution. It will now be important for the authorities to have the resources available to detect and respond to cattle rustling activities.
Firearms law reform
The law surrounding the ownership and possession of firearms has been reformed following the Christchurch mosque massacre. The Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Act 2019 has introduced changes to ban the ownership and possession of most semi-automatic firearms and pump-action shotguns (known as ‘prohibited firearms’), some large capacity magazines (‘prohibited magazines’), and parts (‘prohibited parts’). New offences have also been created, such as importing a prohibited item, unlawful possession of a prohibited firearm and supplying or selling a prohibited firearm or magazine.
If you own any of these newly-prohibited items, they should be surrendered to police by completing a notification form and attending one of the scheduled collection events. Another option is to hand over the prohibited items to approved gun dealers or at your nearest police station. A buy-back scheme is in place which aims to compensate owners of prohibited firearms and prohibited parts. To receive compensation, people surrendering a prohibited firearm must hold a valid firearms licence. A valid firearms licence is not required when handing in prohibited parts and compensation will still be provided. The buy-back scheme runs from 20 June – 20 December 2019. An amnesty is in place throughout the collection period.
Additional reforms are likely and further proposed amendments include establishing a firearms register, increasing police powers to seize firearms, reducing the 10-year licence expiry period, requiring a licence to buy ammunition and parts, requiring gun clubs to be registered and banning any overseas visitor to New Zealand from purchasing firearms.
To read more about the changes to firearms laws, please click here.
Farm Debt Mediation Bill – a welcome relief for farmers
The government has acknowledged that farmers face many risks outside their control such as climate change, biosecurity threats and international market changes that can affect their ability to pay debt on time.
The newly-introduced Farm Debt Mediation Bill aims to help farmers struggling with debt. It aims to provide fair, timely resolution of issues around farm debt between creditors and debtors.
The objectives of the Bill are to:
- Support farmers in financial distress in their involvement with secured creditors
- Make it possible to explore options for turning around a failing farm business, and
- Allow farmers with an unviable business to ‘exit with dignity’.
The proposed legislation will require creditors with security interests in farm property (land, livestock, plant and harvested goods) to offer farmers who default on payments, mediation services before they take enforcement action. It will also allow farmers to initiate mediation before default occurs.
There will be no obligation on either a farmer or a creditor to participate in the mediation. However, there are mechanisms for both parties if mediation is declined. For example, if a farmer declines mediation when defaulting, the creditor may apply for an Enforcement Certificate that will allow enforcement action to be taken pursuant to the loan agreement. Conversely, if the creditor declines mediation upon request by the farmer, the farmer can apply for a Prohibition Certificate, which will prevent the creditor from taking any enforcement action for that debt for a period of six months.
The Bill is currently expected to become law before the end of 2019, with farmers having access to the Mediation Scheme from 1 October 2020.