A well-known New Zealand harness racing driver has been sentenced to community service for failing to declare soiled racing equipment on his arrival back in the country.
Anthony Murray Butt was sentenced to 120 hours of community service when he appeared in the Christchurch District Court on a charge of knowingly making a false declaration to Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) quarantine inspectors in August last year.
Butt, an experienced harness racer, did not declare soiled harness racing driving equipment when he arrived at Christchurch International Airport from Sydney.
When questioned by a quarantine inspector, Butt said he had not been riding horses when in Australia.
When asked about his dirty clothing, Butt said that it had come from New Zealand.
Subsequent investigations, including analysis of video footage, clearly showed that this was not the case and Butt had been racing in the clothing and equipment in question.
The ministry’s compliance manager for Canterbury and Westland, Peter Hyde, said: “Equine biosecurity is taken very seriously by MPI, as horse-racing contributes a significant amount to the New Zealand economy.
“Concerns around the deadly Hendra virus mean that those travelling from Australia need to take special care that they have decontaminated any equipment that may pose a biosecurity risk.
“The offending is made all the more serious in this case as Mr Butt knowingly made a false declaration after being potentially exposed to an extremely serious biosecurity risk.
“As a professional involved in the horse racing industry he is well aware of the risks posed to the industry by Hendra and other biosecurity threats.”
The maximum penalty for knowingly making a false declaration is 12 months imprisonment and/or a fine of $50,000.