A Coromandel couple is demanding Fonterra fix its sharemilker payment rules after having more than $80,000 stolen by their former farm owner.
Lance Burt was sentenced in the Tauranga District Court yesterday to nine months in prison and ordered to pay $81,930 in reparations to Ian and Lisa Handcock after being convicted for the dishonest use of a computer.
The Handcock's were sharemilkers on Burt’s Whangapoua farm for 18 months, when he cancelled their sharemilking contract in April 2007.
Burt emailed Fonterra to stop the Handcock’s milk payments, and ordered the cooperative to pay money into the account of his financially-troubled Coromandel Land Trust Ltd.
By law, all cancelled payments are required to go into a farm owner’s solicitor’s trust account.
The Handcocks took Burt through arbitration to retrieve their money, but he cited financial hardship for not being able to afford repayments. He was then ordered to repay the full sum to the Handcocks.
Burt appealed the decision to the district court, but it was not upheld. He was then convicted of stealing the money in June this year.
Lisa Handcock says she hopes the ruling shines a light on dodgy sharemilking relations.
“We want this to send a message to farm owners, hands off, fellas. Do some thinking before sticking your fingers into shareholders’ payments.”