by Ewan Kelsall
Over half of farmers have been the victim of crime on their farms in the last two years, according to the 2021 Federated Farmers and NZ Police rural crime survey.
The late April/early May survey drew responses from more than 1200 farmers, of whom 52% had been impacted by incidents of crime. That’s up 10% from the last survey in 2016 and there has been a dramatic increase in the number repeated offences. Of that 52%, 71.4% said they had been hit two or more times and 17.5% five or more times.
Federated Farmers rural security spokesperson Colin Hurst says that while he is disappointed by the survey results, he is not surprised.
“Anecdotally, stories of crime impacting farmers are becoming more and more common. Rural New Zealand used to be known as a relaxed and relatively safe place to live and work but more and more of our farmers are now seeing the increasing impact of crime in their homes and businesses.”
For those who reported having experienced or suspected an incident in the past two years, theft of farm animals and property were the key areas of concern. Incidents or suspected incidents of livestock theft increased significantly, from 26% in 2016 to almost 50% of impacted respondents now reporting farm animals as being stolen or killed on their property.
There has been a 20% increase in the reported theft of farm fuel, with almost half of all farms suffering fuel theft in the last two years. Quad, motorbike and other farm vehicle thefts are also up by 14%, to 26% of respondents in this category. There has also been an increase in the theft of smaller farm items such as hand tools, chainsaws and shearing gear to nearly half of these respondents.
Illegal hunting continues to be a problem, with almost half of farmers impacted by crime having suffered from poaching. While the number impacted remains similar to 2016, the poachers’ target has changed, with almost 70% now believed to be targeting wild deer, almost twice the number reported in 2016.
“Federated Farmers has worked closely with our partners FMG Insurance and the Police to reach out to rural communities to highlight the increased risk of crime and ways to help prevent it,” Colin said.
“We continue to run our popular rural security workshops across the country, highlighting the risks and workshopping ideas on how to reduce the attractiveness of your farm business to crime.”
Feds also continues to lobby for greater rural police numbers and has been working hard to increase the consequences for those caught committing offences in rural areas. Several years of hard work paid off in December 2018 when then-Justice Minister Andrew Little agreed to fast-track changes to the Crimes Act bringing in tougher penalties for the theft of livestock and unlawful entry to farmland. The Crimes Amendment Bill was passed in March 2019, including provisions targeted at livestock rustling which Federated Farmers strongly advocated for:
- Theft of livestock or other animal, carrying a maximum penalty of 7 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.
Harsher penalties under the Wild Animal Control Act and amendments to the Arms Act have also increased the penalties and made it easier for Police to seek the loss of firearms licences for those prosecuted for offences such as illegal hunting and livestock theft.
Despite the risk of these harsher penalties, the offending continues.
“We are still hearing from Police that the reporting rates of crimes on farms are relatively low, and without the evidence that a greater presence is needed, it is harder to justify an increase in rural police numbers,” Colin said.
“Please report any crime or suspicious activity, form a Neighbourhood Support group and keep in touch with your neighbours. We all need to work together to reduce the attractiveness of farms as a target for criminals.”