A Whakatane man who admitted illegally milling indigenous timber has had his $30,000 penalty slashed by two thirds.
Stuart McKenzie Neilson, 64, appeared in the High Court at Rotorua today to appeal against both his conviction and sentence. Neilson pleaded guilty in the Whakatane District Court last year to a charge under the Forests Act of unlawfully milling 17 cubic metres of native timber from the Waimana area.
His lawyer David Hayes told Justice Peter Woodhouse his client, who had until then acted for himself, had been confused when he pleaded guilty and had misunderstood the law.
Mr Hayes submitted that although Neilson owned the sawmill he had loaned it to another person who was meant to apply for the required permit but had not.
After some discussion, Justice Woodhouse briefly adjourned court and when it resumed Mr Hayes advised he had spoken to his client who no longer wished to appeal the conviction.
Turning to the sentence, Justice Woodhouse said the district court judge had imposed a $15,000 fine plus $15,000 reparation, payable to the Ministry of Primary Industries.
Justice Woodhouse noted that judge had no jurisdiction to order reparation and concluded he must have intended it to be costs.
Regardless, he considered the total financial penalty of $30,000 to be "manifestly excessive" in the circumstances.
"The starting point for a fine should not be more than $15,000," he said.
Justice Woodhouse said Neilsen was then entitled to a reasonable discount for his age and the fact he had no previous convictions.
"[That is] his good character over a life of 64 years."
He noted there had been evidence at the original sentencing as to the financial situation of Neilsen, a sickness beneficiary.
"However in all of the circumstances I am satisfied that a fine of $10,000 is justified."