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Farm manager broke tails of 116 cows, sentenced to home detention



Four cows needed their tails amputated and 116 suffered pain and permanent damage after a farm manager deliberately broke the tails, some more than once.

In one case, a cow’s tail was left dangling, another suffered torn skin at the site of the injury and others had open wounds at the site of dislocation.

The dislocations, referred to as “broken tails”, were commonly associated with “tail jacking”, when farmers yanked the tails of dairy cows as they were being moved in and out of the milking shed.

Mark Donald Richardson only admitted the animal abuse after pleading not guilty to the crime for more than two years. He was sentenced on Tuesday in the Hamilton District Court.

According to a Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) summary of facts, Richardson was a 50/50 sharemilker at Wharepūhunga, southwest of Te Awamutu, between September 2015 and February 2020 when he owned a herd of 165 cattle.

He was the sole day-to-day carer of the animals at the 55-hectare property owned by another farmer.

During that time, he inflicted the painful dislocations to the cows’ tails, without seeking veterinarian care, and the cruel treatment was only discovered when the 48-year-old sold the cows to the farm owner.

MPI investigated and charged Richardson under the Animal Welfare Act 1999 with one representative charge of recklessly ill-treating animals and a representative charge of failing to ensure their physical, health and behavioural needs.

The charges carried penalties of up to three years’ imprisonment and a $75,000 fine.

The summary of facts said a cow’s tail was made up of 18 to 20 vertebrae, attached by ligaments and muscles as well as nerves and blood vessels, and was essentially an extension of the spine.

One of the cows with a tail injury inspected by a veterinarian. Mark Donald Richardson only admitted the animal abuse after pleading not guilty to the crime for more than two years.

One of the cows with a tail injury inspected by a veterinarian. Photo: Supplied / MPI

Most tail injuries were a dislocation of those vertebrae that stretched and ruptured permanently causing inflammation and associated pain.

“The length of time the animal feels the pain and how it reacts will vary between animals based upon the severity of the injury.

“However, the force required to dislocate a cow’s tail is greater than the force required to dislocate a human finger and causes both immediate and prolonged pain and distress.”

MPI said in the summary that where higher percentages of broken tails were present in a dairy herd, it was the result of either deliberate ill-treatment or inappropriate stock handling.

Shortly after Richardson sold the herd, the new owner noticed lumps and irregularities in many of the cows’ tails and called his vet who found 116 cows with permanent tail damage, including fractures or dislocations.

Most of the injuries were in the mid-third of the tail, which was associated with poor handling or “excessive twisting”, the summary said.

MPI said the pain and distress caused to the animals was “unreasonable and unnecessary”.

When Richardson was interviewed about the injuries, he admitted he was aware toward the end of his time on the farm there were some tail breaks but thought it was less than 10 percent of the herd. In fact, it was 70 percent.

He said he would not have broken the tails on purpose and it would have happened when trying to “bale cows up in the milking shed by moving their tails from behind to get them to go forward”.

Though 116 cows were injured, Richardson was charged with failing to prevent tail injuries to 84 cows because some of the animals were born before 2014, meaning the injuries may have occurred outside the five-year statutory limitation period from when the charges were filed in September 2020.

Judge Tony Couch said the severity of the fractures to the tails of four of the cows was so great a vet had to amputate them.

He regarded the gravity of Richardson’s offending as serious, with 70 percent of the herd suffering injuries, 49 percent having more than one break, and 13 percent suffering four or more injuries.

“It would have been considerably painful to the animals concerned.”

In some cases, the cows’ tails were permanently damaged, preventing the animals from being able to use them properly.

“You knew some of the cows had tail breaks. Your neglect was deliberate rather than simply an oversight.”

Judge Couch said the fact four cows needed their tails removed was not the result of an accident.

“It’s unusual that an injury is so severe that it requires amputation.”

Richardson was in a position of trust, Judge Couch said.

“The animals were dependent on you. They were vulnerable.”

Such ill-treatment required a sentence that would set a “general and specific deterrence”.

Judge Couch took a starting point of 18 months in prison and gave Richardson a 20 percent discount for his guilty plea, noting that it came very late in the court process.

This reduced the sentence to 14.5 months’ jail, which Judge Couch converted to seven months’ home detention.

Richardson was to carry out the sentence at a farm in Waharoa, near Matamata, where he could continue working as a farm manager.

He was also banned from being in charge of any cattle on a supplying dairy farm for two years, unless under direct supervision, though he could still milk in the presence of other farm workers.

MPI animal welfare acting regional manager Richard Knight said when MPI found evidence of animal neglect or deliberate abuse it took action.

“One of the disturbing aspects in this case was that four of these animals had to have their tails amputated because their injuries were so severe.”


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Christchurch terror attack inquest: ‘Significant blind spot’ relating to St John’s specialist paramedics – coroner



A woman who was forced to leave the side of her bleeding husband following the terror attack at Christchurch’s Linwood Islamic Centre only discovered he had died the following day after seeking help from then-prime minister Jacinda Ardern.

Saira Patel’s husband Musa Patel was one of seven people who died after being shot at the Linwood Islamic Centre, following the massacre at nearby Al Noor Mosque on 15 March 2019.

Supported by her son, Patel told the inquest into the deaths that she and her husband were praying in separate parts of the mosque on the day of the attack.

Patel said she thought a tyre had blown when she heard a loud bang. A baby began to cry, and she could soon smell gunpowder.

She yelled, “Someone is shooting, someone is shooting” as people ran to escape.

When Patel found her bleeding husband, she told the Coroners Court she could hear him saying his “last prayer” as if he knew he was about to die.

Imam Hafiz Musa Patel

Musa Patel died at Linwood Islamic Centre on 15 March 2019. Photo: Facebook/ US Embassy Suva

She said she was forced to leave when police arrived and started treating Musa Patel, an order that distressed her to this day.

“I think any dying person who is about to leave this world would be very desperately craving and needing to be close to their loved ones. My presence during his final moments would have made a big difference in my life and I think maybe his last moments of departing this world,” she said.

She did not know her husband had died until the following day, when she approached then-prime minister Jacinda Ardern, who led her to a counsellor.

Patel said the counsellor showed her a photo of an unidentified man in hospital who was not her husband.

“I knew then that my husband was dead. There was no-one else who could have identified him, and this last unidentified man was my last hope,” she said.

Patel thanked the doctors and paramedics who did everything they could to console her husband in his final moments.

“I would like to thank them from the bottom of my heart,” she said.

“I was trying to be with him in that last moment but maybe they were chosen to be with him.”

Dr Alison Wooding from nearby Piki Te Ora Medical Centre was one of the doctors who treated Musa Patel when staff went to the mosque to help the injured.

She told the court he was meant to be the first victim taken to hospital but realised he had died after he was moved onto a stretcher.

Wooding said she and others were talking to Musa Patel the entire time they cared for him, but she did not recall him ever responding.

Police officers gave evidence on Tuesday saying Musa Patel had been able to communicate with them at first but his condition deteriorated over time.

Wooding told the court she felt apprehensive and worried about the situation at the mosque, but safe and protected between armed and vigilant police officers.

29th November 2023 Iain McGregor/The Press/Pool Christchurch Masjidain Attack Coronial hearing. Coroner Brigitte Windley.

Deputy chief coroner Brigitte Windley. Photo: The Press / Iain McGregor

‘Significant blind spot’ relating to St John emergency response team – coroner

The coroner has queried a “significant blind spot” in the way St John ambulance officers work with specialist paramedics trained to work in dangerous situations.

Deputy chief coroner Brigitte Windley questioned St John duty manager Bruce Chubb about the organisation’s response massacre.

Two Special Emergency Response Team (SERT) paramedics were among ambulance officers who went to the scene of the shooting in Linwood Avenue.

No-one from St John attended the Al Noor scene in a SERT capacity.

Chubb told the Coroners Court that SERT teams worked under police and it was not uncommon for St John not to know when they had been requested, where they were, or what they were doing.

In response, coroner Windley said: “My concern is that that creates a significant blind spot for St John, doesn’t it?”

“Isn’t it that these are critical resources in terms of closing that care gap for people who are dying and injured and being able to get a response in, and you’ve got no visibility about where they are and even if in fact they’ve been deployed?”

041223 CHRIS SKELTON Witness, Bruce Chubb from St John command and control during the Christchurch terror attack inquest held at the Christchurch Justice precinct.

St John’s Bruce Chubb. Photo: Stuff / Chris Skelton

Chubb said he was not suggesting it was “okay” that St John did not know where SERT officers were but said it was the practice at the time.

He was not aware of any changes to the SERT policy since the terror attack.

Chubb told the coroner he thought it was “always nice to know” where resources were, to which she replied, “I would suggest it’s more than nice to know. I would suggest that St John needs to know”.

Chubb earlier told the inquest that he believed general ambulance officers should not have entered either mosque immediately after the shootings because of the safety risk.

Windley said the court was concerned St John ambulance officers had to breach the organisation’s policy in order to get an emergency response in place.

“Do you agree that that’s fundamentally a problem?” she asked.

“Yes,” Chubb replied.

Earlier on Tuesday, Chubb told counsel for families Kathryn Dalziel that the terror attack was a catastrophic event that he did not expect and was never prepared for.

“I don’t believe any of my colleagues were either, so it was fundamentally overwhelming,” he said.

The inquest will examine the following 10 issues over seven weeks:

  • Events of 15 March 2019 from the commencement of the attack until the terrorist’s formal interview by police
  • Response times and entry processes of police and ambulance officers at each mosque
  • Triage and medical response at each mosque
  • The steps that were taken to apprehend the offender
  • The role of, and processes undertaken by, Christchurch Hospital in responding to the attack
  • Coordination between emergency services and first responders
  • Whether the terrorist had any direct assistance from any other person on 15 March 2019
  • If raised by immediate family, and to the extent it can be ascertained, the final movements and time of death for each of the deceased
  • The cause of death for each of the victims and whether any deaths could have been avoided
  • Whether Al Noor Mosque emergency exit door in the southeast corner of the main prayer room failed to function during the attack and, if so, why?

The inquest continues.


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Protests raise questions about next year’s Waitangi day



In the wake of protests over the new government’s policies on co-governance and the Treaty, the head of the Waitangi National Trust Board says it is important Treaty partners front up and have a conversation on 6 February.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon says he intends to visit for Waitangi Day, as does ACT’s David Seymour.

The protests taking place across New Zealand on Tuesday were part of a “National Māori Action Day”, led by Te Pāti Māori and iwi, to challenge the government over its policies on the Treaty of Waitangi, and other policies affecting Māori.

Waitangi National Trust Board chairperson Pita Tipene expected for that sentiment to flow through on Waitangi Day.

“Clearly, the Māori people see it as an attack on the Treaty of Waitangi and the constitutional basis of this country,” Tipene said.

These include switching from Māori to English names on various government departments, rewriting legislation to make mentions of the principles of the Treaty more specific, and progressing an ACT bill calling for the principles to be set down under its own prescription, rather than decades of jurisprudence.


Ngāti Hine leader Pita Tipene

Ngāti Hine leader Pita Tipene Photo: RNZ

Tipene told Checkpoint there was no invite list for politicians per se, and the doors of the Trust were open for all to come along.

“Given that it is a Waitangi Day commemorations period, it’s really important that the Treaty of Waitangi is the focus, and therefore the Treaty partners should front up and have a conversation.”

He would be disappointed, but not surprised, if parties in government were not represented there on the day.

“It has happened before where governments or political parties have chosen not to front up at Waitangi.”


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Te Pāti Māori protests – Day of action focuses on new government’s Māori policies



Police says protesters are causing widespread delays at key transport networks around the North Island, but there have been no arrests so far.

A police spokesperson says commuters should allow travel time this morning, with Te Pāti Māori’s planned protests disrupting travel routes.

There are large gatherings in Tāmaki Makaurau and central Wellington, along with a number of other cities and towns.

The spokesperson says Auckland motorists are advised there are heavy delays on parts of the motorway network this morning.

The demonstrations are in response to Te Pāti Māori’s call for action against the new government’s policies on co-governance and the Treaty.


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