No search warrant required to inspect properties for mycoplasma bovis

By Moana Makapelu Lee

A civil liberties expert warns there is no guarantee another repeat of the Urewera raid saga could be avoided under the implications of the National Identification and Tracing Amendment Bill. The bill was passed last night and brings the NAIT Act in line with the Search and Surveillance Act 2012 to allow inspectors to search farming properties without a warrant.

The Government is making quick moves to tackle the cattle disease mycoplasma Bovis. Now Ministry for Primary Industry officers will no longer need a search warrant to inspect farming properties.

Public law and civil liberties expert at Auckland University Bill Hodge says "I think most people would agree that there are some powers of entry that are probably necessary.”

“The same with a gas pipe line going under Māori land or electricity pylons with 30,000 volts going over Māori land, again powers of inspection to make sure they are safe."

But the extensive powers could mean inspectors could search for more than mycoplasma bovis.

Hodge says "If you mean they find a patch of marijuana then they're on new grounds and that would mean the misuse of drugs act.”  

“If they find arms then they're under new grounds and that will be under the fire arms legislation. So it depends on what they find." 

Hodge says there is no guarantee that powers to inspect properties will not be misused under the amendment, such as the Urewera Raids in 2007.

"I pray not, wasn't that one of the worst chapters in NZ history I mean that sort of resonates with names like Parihaka. So one would have hoped that we would have learned a lesson from that" says Hodge.

Provisions that remove the need for search warrants are not new. However Hodge says there needs to be better protection for homesteads.

"Where a place is being used to produce animal products or maybe they're growing crops but it's also a homestead then I think we should control that entry with protections because it's also a private place where people live."