The Good Oil: Stray Concerns

Question:  My neighbour’s stock keep breaking on to my land.  What can I do?
Answer:  Quite a lot, really.
 

A few years back some of the neighbour’s stock ventured on to our side of the fence and played there for a bit.  As these were friendly, light-footed Angora goats there were no problems and a bit of extra fencing saw that these waifs stayed home.

It wouldn’t be so amusing if the animal in question was, say, a water buffalo, or even a smaller, yet potentially troublesome, pig. 

Recently there’s been a bit of discussion on this website’s forum section on just this question.  The animals concerned were kune kune pigs, they were straying on to a neighbour’s land and the owner didn’t want to know about it. 

Often, disputes of this kind can get ugly before they get better – and can permanently destroy neighbourly relations, as happened to me many years ago.  The situation was only alleviated by my moving to a new property (see rooster story.)

What rights and responsibilities do we have as landowners?  Trying to get to the bottom of the fencing issue wasn’t totally a piece of cake.  I suspected the Fencing Act 1978 would be a good place to start.  The Act itself, I felt, was a tad technical, and it would be nice to talk to a human about it.  So I contacted a few people at various organisations and councils; they either didn’t know the answer or passed me on to their PR people.

Federated Farmers simply said they couldn’t help.  One creative lot suggested I contact this website!  Meanwhile, more PR people told me they were on to it but it might take a few weeks – by which time the kune kunes might have sprouted wings and flown away.

Finally, I found some helpful, informed advice in the person of Waitakere City Council Manager of Animal Welfare Neil Wells – give that man and his council a chocolate fish.

Despite a long weekend approaching, Neil was more than willing to put me on the right track which was not, it turned out, the Fencing Act. 

The legislation governing this sometimes volatile and difficult issue is, in fact, the Impounding Act 1955.  The Fencing Act deals more with financial obligations associated with a fence erected on a common boundary.

The Impounding Act covers the legislation of stock, trespassing, damages, impounding wandering stock and other animals, and penalties that may result, Neil told me.  He adds the Act is a good one - “in all honesty, any Act that has been in place for 50 years without an amendment must be an effective one.”

In two parts, it sets out the role of authorities which impound animals that have strayed on to the road and also outlines the civil process for disputes over stock wandering on private land. 

While councils will get involved when stock are found on the road, they won’t deal with civil issues – such as our kune kune pigs wandering about on private land.

“If these animals are repeatedly getting through the boundary fence on to another landowner’s property, they are trespassing,” he said.

Recommended action:
  • Ring your local council and ask to be put through to their Animal Control Unit.  They can provide advice on the best way to approach problems;
  • Meet with the neighbour and try to talk the problem through;
  • Consider appointing a third party mediator agreed to by both parties.
  • If the gentle approach is unsuccessful and the problem ongoing,  then it may be time to resort to legal action.  Under the Act, the owner of the offending animals may be charged trespassing fees and this could also be followed up with civil action via the Disputes Tribunal.

People affected by stray stock may charge trespass fees, which, in this case, are currently set at $5 per pig, each time they stray on grazing pasture.  If the stock is on crops, burial grounds or a reserve, then the charge is doubled to $10.

Pigs, says Neil, have a higher trespass fee than any other stock because they cause the most damage.  The owner is liable to pay these fees and fix the problem.  For the record, roaming sheep on pasture are liable for 50c, and on crops $1. Fees for larger animals such as cattle, horses, deer etc are $2 on pasture, $5 on crops.

The next time my brother-in-law’s cows trample my garden, he’s going to pay...

© Annette Taylor

Further information: Impounding Act 1955

 

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