Sydney resident Iszac William Walters will have to pay fines and costs totalling $11,000 for his “downright stupid and irresponsible” actions in bringing live scorpions into New Zealand from Australia.
Christchurch District Court Judge David Saunders said jail terms could be imposed on people who carried out such breaches of New Zealand’s Biosecurity Act where people thought it was okay to bring noxious substances and animals into the country.
Ministry of Primary Industries prosecutor Grant Fletcher told the court: “The fact is, a biosecurity offence is a very serious matter. Once a genie is out the bottle it’s gone for good.”
The judge told 23-year-old Walters: “This was just downright stupid and irresponsible behaviour.”
He imposed fines of $5000 on both charges relating to bringing in six scorpions through Christchurch Airport and ordered $1000 costs to be paid to the Ministry.
Walters had pleaded guilty to the charges. He will return to Sydney to help care for his father, who is recovering after a liver transplant, and continue his work as a staging assistant for a local news network and pay off his financial penalties.
Others involved in the offending, who had received the scorpions from Walters, were given community detention sentences in Queenstown last month.
Defence counsel Graeme Riach said Walters had made inquiries to have his KiwiSaver savings released to pay the fine in New Zealand but that did not seem to be possible. He pressed for a fine to be imposed in Walters’ case, though the Ministry had sought a custodial sentence to signal deterrence.
Walters brought the six scorpions in through Christchurch Airport in a 35mm film canister on February 17.
They were the black rock species which were found living under rocks, and five arrived alive. They were from the Melbourne area and could grow up to 55mm in length.
Judge Saunders said they did not necessarily have a fatal sting and were not as destructive of the environment as some might think. “It is questionable whether they would have survived in Central Otago.”
He noted that Walters had returned to New Zealand from Australia to be interviewed about the offence, and then returned to “face the music” at court. He had written letters of apology to the people involved.
He noted that Walters was a first offender, who had not brought the creatures in for commercial gain.
People who had written references for him had been shocked at the foolish and irresponsible behaviour.
Walters might have enhanced his reputation in the eyes of the other young men by bringing in the scorpions, but others would not have been impressed if the species had become established, the judge said.