$1000 fine for breach of lockdown

Photo: ODT files
Photo: ODT files
A district court judge has told a property developer he would give him the benefit of the doubt that his breach of the Covid-19 lockdown in September was born from ‘‘ignorance and not arrogance’’.

Min Yang (42) admitted leaving an Alert Level 4 area to travel to a Level 2 area in breach of the regulations and the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act on September 2 at Christchurch.

Yang, whose charge sheet listed his occupation as a bus driver, had previously represented himself and denied the charge, but yesterday defence counsel Michael Walker appeared on his behalf, entering a guilty plea before Judge John Brandts-Giesen in the Queenstown District Court.

Prosecutor Sergeant Ian Collin said Yang, a director of a construction and property investment company building luxury apartments in Fernhill, was not directly involved in the construction - not deemed an essential service - nor in daily site operations.

At the time New Zealand went into lockdown, on August 17, Yang was living in Remuera, Auckland.

On August 29 he booked a flight to Christchurch for September 1, where he arrived just before 9.30pm.

Between September 1 and 6, Yang travelled to Queenstown where he was residing, and on September 7, the day before the South Island moved from Level 3 to Level 2, he attended the worksite and had a meeting on site with the project’s architect.

Sgt Collin said the Ministry of Health was alerted to the possible breach on September 9 and police were notified. They spoke to Yang at 6pm that day.

The Singaporean national was unable to provide any documentation relating to the purpose of his travel, nor an exemption document, and stated he had been ‘‘playing golf with a friend’’.

He had undergone a Covid test and had received a negative result.

Yang told police he thought he could live and work in the same area and had made inquiries on the Covid-19 website.

He stated he drove from Christchurch to Queenstown on September 2 and while he confirmed his employment was not an essential service, he stated ‘‘he didn’t think the matter was particularly serious’’.

Mr Walker told Judge Brandts-Giesen it was ‘‘simply an oversight and a mistake on behalf of Mr Yang’’.

At Auckland Airport he had provided a rates bill and letter from his employer and said it was a ‘‘misplaced assumption’’ he could travel to Queenstown.

‘‘He accepts what he did was ... a breach of the rules and law. He is genuinely remorseful... he’s deeply apologetic for it.’’

Yang had admitted the offending - which Mr Walker submitted was at the low end for offending of that nature - at the first reasonable opportunity since instructing counsel.

The defendant thought diversion might be appropriate, but police disagreed.

Judge Brandts-Giesen told Yang that having been resident in New Zealand during the past two or three years he would have known the Covid-19 rules were ‘‘strict, and they have to be complied with’’.

He was fined $1000 and ordered to pay $130 court costs, both amounts to be paid by this Friday.

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