New farm trespass laws welcomed by police and politicians

Detective Inspector Cameron Whiteside praised the government's passing of the on-farm trespass legislation. Photo: PAIGE WILLIAMS
Detective Inspector Cameron Whiteside praised the government's passing of the on-farm trespass legislation. Photo: PAIGE WILLIAMS

Police, politicians and farming organisations have all welcome a new legislation that imposes harsher penalties to people who illegally trespass on farms.

The new offence will see illegal trespassers on farms, who create biosecurity risks, handed an immediate on-the-spot fine of $1000 and further fines of up to $220,000 per person and $440,000 for corporations.

The new penalties will commence August, 1, 2019.

Deputy Premier John Barilaro and Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall made the announcement on July 22.

State Rural Crime Coordinator Detective Inspector Cameron Whiteside praised the government's passing of the legislation.

"It gives a clear message in terms of a deterrent for people who think that they can trespass on farms, creating a biosecurity risk and increasing the fear of crime for families who run those businesses," he said.

Det Insp Whiteside said in terms of trespass laws, the Criminal Code Amendment (Agricultural Protection) Bill will be the harshest penalties once introduced in NSW.

"I welcome anything that's going to help make our rural and regional communities safer," he said.

Earlier this year animal activist group Aussie Farms released an interactive map that published the locations of farms across the country. The map implied that all businesses were involved with animal cruelty.

It allowed people to "submit information about facilities and upload photos, videos and documents relating to that facility".

At the time, many farmers were worried this could lead to illegal trespassing.

"If you're going to trespass onto someone's property you're going to be dealt with accordingly. No matter what you're motive is... it's quite clear that it is against the law," Det Insp Whiteside said.

Det Insp Whiteside said any sort of trespassing will not be tolerated and action will be taken.

"This legislation send a clear message to everyone, whether it be people who are motivated by activism or illegal trespassing and hunting, that it's not going to be tolerated," he said.

Mr Barilaro said the penalties sends a strong warning to those who think it's okay to illegally invade farms and harass hard-working farmers.

"Vigilantes who are entering our farmers' property illegally are nothing short of domestic terrorists - our farmers have had a gutful," he said.

They don't deserve, nor have time, to be dealing with illegal trespass and vile harassment from a bunch of virtue-signalling thugs.

"But we aren't stopping there. We are also looking at ways we can further deter this kind of behaviour, including introducing legislation and potential gaol time for offenders."

NSW Farmers welcomed the moves from the NSW State Government to amend biosecurity legislation and introduce the fines.

"We applaud the action by the NSW and Commonwealth governments. The current legislative framework is not effective and new laws are needed to address these crimes," NSW Farmers president James Jackson said.

Under the changes to the Biosecurity Regulation 2017 it will become mandatory for site visitors to comply with a Biosecurity Management Plan.

Anyone who enters a designated biosecurity area without permission and without complying with the plan's requirements may be guilty of an offence under the Biosecurity Act 2015, and subject to the new, harsher penalties.

To access the new offence, farmers will need to have a biosecurity plan in place and appropriate signage. Farmers are encouraged to contact the Department of Primary Industries or their Local Land Services office for more information.

This story Praise for new on-farm trespass laws first appeared on Western Magazine.