Saturday, October 10, 2015

Politics and social justice run through O'Connor sisters' blood

For the O'Connor sisters, politics runs through the blood, as does the need to speak up in the face of adversity. Stacey Knott reports on four sisters who are dedicated to fighting social injustice, as part of the Wonder Women series.

Between them, sisters Mary Ellen, Julia, Margaret and Teresa have advocated for unions, nurses, schools, the environment, refugees, and the poor and disenfranchised.

They're not afraid to voice their opinions, and stand up for their beliefs - it's in their DNA, they say.

Sisters Mary Ellen O'Connor, left, Julia O'Connor, Margaret O'Connor and Teresa O'Connor.
Sisters Mary Ellen O'Connor, left, Julia O'Connor, Margaret O'Connor and Teresa O'Connor.

They grew up on a farm in Appleby, their mother was a social activist, in the mid 80s she fought for the rights of seasonal workers and the homeless in Appleby. Their father, a stalwart of the Labour Party.

Their parents set up St Vincent De Paul Society in Richmond and were instrumental in setting up Trade Aid.

"The twin pillars of our lives were the Labour Party and the Catholic church and social justice is at the heart," Margaret, the third eldest, says.

She is an oncology nurse in Nelson, and also the area council president for St Vincent De Paul Society New Zealand.

Margaret has been outspoken on union matters, and has acted as a spokesperson for casual nurses at Nelson Hospital.

The O'Connors act like a clan, she says.

With pride, they are quick to offer insights into each other's work and dedication to the community and what it means to be an O'Connor.

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None changed their last name after marrying, and all have children, many also taking the O'Connor name.

"[We were] probably a bit marginalised where we were raised as Catholic, Labour Party people in the middle of a WASPish conservative farming area, so I think we probably always had that influence over us, and while we might have felt slightly marginalised, as a result it possibly gave us strength.

"[For] our parents, social issues were to the fore, political discussions were our meat and potatoes around the table. It was part of the fabric of our upbringing."

" I know some people will probably stray from how they were brought up politically, but for us it probably runs fairly strongly in our veins."

Oldest sister Mary Ellen has worked in English language schools through her career, and currently works for English Language Partners, working with former refugees and new migrants. She's written books on trade union histories and the history of Salisbury School.

She's outspoken about many issues, from poor housing, to the GCSB.

"It feels to me we are increasingly almost in a war zone, in terms of the number of fires you are fighting."

Second oldest, Julia, a lawyer, worked in private practice in Nelson for 17 years, much of that in family law, and has also worked as a legal educator for community law, and in the disputes tribunal.

She went to Papua New Guinea for a year in 2011 with VSA as a legal advisor.

In 2014, she went back to the Nelson Bays Community Law Centre where she has been doing immigration work with former refugees as well as employment law.

Through her work, she has "seen all sorts of horrible ways people treat each other," and still feels shocked by what she sees.

"I don't see myself as solving the world's problems, but it's really good to be able to assist and provide structures and processes for people to work through some of those issues."

She is also on the board for Salisbury School, and recently stood down from chairing it.

"There would have been no chance for me to have different politics, we were just so immersed in it," Julia said.

Youngest of the four, Teresa used to work as a journalist at the Nelson Mail, and has also worked as a nurse.

After the 1991 budget, she wrote an editorial about the impact of it for the Listener, and he employer tried to fire her for it. She wasn't fired, but had a warning placed on her file.

This sparked a national campaign to remove the warning from her file, the sisters said. Nurses wore stickers in support, and then opposition health spokesperson Helen Clark joined a rally in support of what was an ultimately successful campaign.

Teresa has also been involved with the Victory Health Centre and setting up a free nurse service at Franklyn Village.

She has been editing the Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand magazine since 1992 where she still works, it's a job she feels fits her values.

Teresa was the force behind setting up Voice Nelson, which Mary Ellen is also highly involved in.

Teresa said Voice Nelson arose out of the "complete and utter despair" she felt after the 2014 election.

Teresa said she and her sisters have loud voices and are able to use them, Voice Nelson worked to give voice to those who aren't heard, including the poor and disenfranchised.

Their great-grandparents fled Ireland's famine for New Zealand, and the sisters say they have "huge privilege" from that.

"I have a responsibility to do something, however pathetic and small or insignificant, to honour a legacy, that I, from some accident of birth, have benefited from," Teresa said.

Mary Ellen said Voice Nelson had attracted older members, and she sees it as a way to pay back for what her generation had, "in terms of having had free health and education handed to us".

They were hopeful about passing the baton to younger generations.

People need to care about those less fortunate, Margaret said.

With an impassioned plea, she says it doesn't make sense to keep letting the gap between the 'haves' and 'have nots' grow.

"Everybody loses with inequality. Everyone stands to gain when we live in more equal societies."

They have another sister, Gabrielle, the youngest who was unable to be interviewed. The sisters say she is very animal-orientated, a natural farmer and works as a caregiver.

There was another sister, Bridget, who only lived to four months due to health reasons.

 - Stuff

Monday, September 21, 2015

Campaigners calling for conversation on cannabis law

Campaigners for cannabis law reform are working to start a conversation they hope will get politicians to act.
At a weekend screening of documentary Druglawed at the Free House, film director Arik Reiss was joined by Nelson's Rose Renton, who had campaigned for her son to be treated with a cannabinoid oil while in intensive care, and Abe Gray who runs a cannabis museum in Dunedin, and campaigns for legalisation.
Renton's son Alex died in Wellington Hospital on July 1, he had suffered seizures and it was not known what caused them. She has since dedicated herself to cannabis law reform for both medical and recreational use. 
"The Rugby World Cup comes along and with a stroke of a pen they can extend drinking hours," Renton said. "I'm pleased for them, that's great they can watch rugby and have a drink, but what about the cannabis community that would choose to eat a bit of brownie and have a good night's sleep? I really don't get the stigma to it."
She said Alex was a recreational cannabis user, and it helped with his insomnia.
"He was an excellent student with a brilliant mind."
Renton said people should have the right to choose, and said Alex would have wanted to be able to choose cannabis. She and Alex both voted for the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party in the 2014 election.
Gray spoke about a nationwide online campaign to "destigmatise the plant" and to open up a conversation to get politicians to legalise the use of the plant. Called 'Let's Start the Conversation' Gray said the aim was to have ads on TV about issues around prohibition.
He wanted people to be open about their use to show prohibition was not working, he said.
The film documented the history of cannabis prohibition in the USA and New Zealand, outlining political and economic reasons for its prohibition. It argued New Zealand mirrored the USA's war on drugs, and prohibition was failing.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Serial rapist's sentence highlights 'fetid' dance party culture

Mateo Nixon was sentenced to 14 years for sexual offences against six women at dance parties and in homes across the South Island. STACEY KNOTT investigates.
The first time P (name legally protected) met Mateo Nixon he raped her.
His sentence was a relief for the woman who was assaulted on three separate occasions by Nixon.
Nixon, known as Tao to his friends and those within the dance party scene he was a part of, was sentenced to 14 years jail at the Dunedin District Court on Friday for six charges of rape, three of unlawful sexual connection, two of indecent assault, and two of sexual connection with a young person under 16, between October 2009 and July 2012.
In the dock, his long ginger dreads and beard were gone, and he remained expressionless throughout his sentencing.
P was at a friend's house in Dunedin in 2009 where Nixon was also present. Her first impression was that he was "self confident, manipulative and alpha." That night she fell asleep watching DVDs and woke to him raping her.

The two subsequent attacks occurred when she was staying with the same friend, and had been told that Nixon would not be present. However, Nixon defied the friend's request he not come over, and again, P awoke to him assaulting her.
"I would not have been there if I had known there was any chance he would have gone, and I totally regret it and blame myself."
She says abuse she suffered when she was younger stopped her from wanting to go to the police straight away.
And she would not have been able to go to police without other victims coming forward first.
When she did proceed,  she felt impressed and supported by the police she dealt with.
In her victim impact statement read out in court on Friday she said Nixon's attacks had lead her to anxiety attacks, suicide attempts and drug and alcohol abuse and triggered memories of past abuse.
"While Tao will be dealt with by the court I am sentenced to a lifetime of flashbacks, panic attacks, endless hours of counselling, mental instability and always lurking is depression."
Credit: Ashlyn Hornsby
She also feared about future suicide attempts.
"I will always feel responsible for what happened to me despite the fact I would have never returned to any place I thought Tao would be present. I felt ashamed and naive I put my trust in the wrong hands."
She said there was support from Nixon within the dance party scene "this made me feel sick and unsafe".
She wanted Nixon to sincerely own up to his offending and get treatment for his behaviour.
Nixon had written letters to the victims, and had offered reparation. P planned to burn the letter, and donate some of the funds to Dunedin Rape Crisis who had supported her.
Read more 
Over the last decade, there were warnings about Nixon.
A former friend, who asked not to be named, recalls first being told to stay away from the dance party crew member at a gig in Wellington in 2006.
She initially ignored the warnings.
"I treated Tao the way he treated me for part of our friendship, which was with kindness and companionship; there were many moments that me and my friends were thankful for Tao being there."
But behind the image of a caring and helpful friend, there were signs of a different personality.
On several occasions she saw him being physically violent "but he always managed to make sure we thought he was in the right."
In 2008 she became wary of him, when he pulled her aside at a party to make sure she believed him, and that allegations made against him were false.
"It wasn't until I heard he abused multiple friends, that me and my inner circle of friends stopped being friends with him."
She said when she tried to warn people about him she was met with the same disbelief she initially had.
"It has taken a long time for people to change their mindset and self educate about rape culture."
She describes Nixon as "a tall, intimidating, manipulative and a scary man, and I think this helped in him not having much opposition to his behaviour."
While drugs and alcohol were involved in the cases where Nixon assaulted the women, the former friend says it's important not to blame any situations on binge drinking or drug taking, "as this becomes victim blaming and not focusing on the fact Tao was a predator and manipulator and rapist."
Nixon was a regular in the punk and dance party scenes.
He was employed in events production, and listed as living in Christchurch, although he followed the party circuit around the North and South Islands.
Performer and promoter Flow Ir In says Nixon got away with his offending for years because of a "fetid culture" where he could operate.
Flow first heard of Nixon's offending in 2012 and started her own investigations after someone told her a "horror story" about one assault.
She was shocked to find there were more victims, and approached party organisers to help.
However, she says in some cases, she was met with "classic rape culture" reactions to Nixon's offending.
"Victim blaming, dissembling, denial, justification. It was quite gross. Many men actually said out loud that they thought if a woman was unconscious, it was perfectly acceptable to have sex with them, and told me that I was out of touch with their culture.
"I talked to every event organiser I could find, to demand that they acted - since the scene was supposed to be 'countercultural' and has a natural aversion to police."
She said some people wanted proof and refused to act.
There was a growing "fetid culture" she said, "where older men plied innocent girls with drugs and alcohol in order to be able to have sex with them."
She says victims were blamed, ostracised and intimidated.
In reality, those who spoke up were "incredibly brave" . She says they faced an uphill battle against the rape culture within the scene itself and with the police, who she said understandably needed evidence to get a conviction.
The victims were "warriors" and it was up to others within the scene to "dig out the remaining rape culture infection and put an end to it. New Zealand deserves safe parties, where we can dance and have fun."
She was relieved to hear the sentence handed to Nixon.
"I pray that the sentence he received highlights the seriousness of his actions to other men who still think that having sex without consent is okay behaviour. My heart goes out to everyone who has been affected by his offending, and I have nothing but admiration for the women who took a stand against it."
As allegations swirled around Nixon in early 2014, before police had laid any charges, dance party organisers in the South Island declared on Facebook posts they would ban him from their events, and introduce safety policies to guard against sexual predators. 
But to the disgust of some Nixon was at the 2014 Alien Nation party in the Wairoa Gorge, near Nelson.
Even though none of the charges in the case were related to Alien Nation, Flow believes Nixon being at the party showed "the needs of a few men are placed above the health and safety of everyone else".
David Small, a Canterbury University senior law lecturer and dance party goer, was so alarmed he helped create a Facebook page calling for a boycott of the event.
He believed there was a high degree of naivety among a few people who Nixon was manipulating to maintain access to victims.
Small said outdoor parties were fundamentally safe places, that ran on trust and mutual respect.
He said Nixon's actions "impacted not only on the women he violated, but also on a cruisy positive social scene."
Dance parties "model forms of social engagement and entertainment that are so much more positive than the alcohol fuelled crap in city night clubs."
For the scene, Flow said Nixon's offending meant "we all have our eyes open now and we are saying 'that's not ok, we demand safety and respect for all our people'."
She said at many parties in New Zealand Nixon's offending would never have happened. At their best they were a "joyful celebration of life" where punters danced all night, and camped out depending on their length.
Dunedin mother of three Shalin White said many people were creating positives from what had happened. 
White has been going to outdoor dance parties for the past 20 years, and has been involved with Dunedin's Winter Solstice for the last five years, helping with the party's safety zone.
When Nixon's offending was revealed, organisers of Winter Solstice held meetings to establish what they would do about sexual predators in the scene, and there were accusations against people involved at Winter Solstice, she said.
There were many meetings to deal with the accusations, with talks about consent, and approaching people on alleged bad behaviours.
The Winter Solstice organisers are also planning public meetings where other party organisers and bar owners can meet and speak about safety at parties.
She said it was a community focused party, where safety was paramount.
There is a doctor on the crew of Winter Solstice, and other crew members have first aid training, including drug and alcohol counselling.
White has experience in helping people feel safe when they are having a difficult psychedelic experience.
She enjoyed the community of a dance party when it was done well and was proud to be involved in Winter Solstice.
"It was the safest, cleanest, tidiest and kindest. We worked really hard at that."
She said they reiterated to people the safety message, where the safe zone was and how to find people who can help and to look out for friends and others.
"It was repeated, literally every single car and every single person that came through the gate."
Nelson Sexual Abuse Support and Healing (SASH) coordinator Sarah-Jane Macmillan also said regardless of drugs or alcohol consumption, everyone deserves the right to be safe from predatory men.
"No one has the right to take advantage of someone else, it should be a basic human right no matter what we are doing, to be safe in this world and not be preyed upon."
Rates for reporting sexual assault to police, and then conviction rates were "terrible",she said.
An estimated 9 per cent of sexual assault incidents are reported to police in New Zealand, of those, there is  an estimated 13 per cent conviction rate.
Society's attitude to rape and sexual abuses factored into the low reporting and conviction rate, she said.
A message that women were solely responsible for looking after themselves was damaging.
"The message needs to be one - don't rape and, two, that everyone in the community has got a responsibility to ending sexual violence in New Zealand."
She said Nixon appeared to manipulate "not just individuals but the whole system" by coming across as a good guy.
It took bravery and strength to come forward, and Macmillian said it often took one person to go forward first with others to follow.
"With these kind of offenders it's never just once."
She said people who went to police about sexual assaults needed support to do so, and should consider professional support as well, like SASH or Rape Crisis.
A police spokesperson said police would continue to work with any further individuals who spoke with police and take appropriate action as a result, and urged any victim of crime to contact police to discuss any incident that has happened.
Rape Crisis New Zealand 0800 88 33 00
 - Stuff

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Rise and fall of financial adviser fraudster Tony Mount

Nelson Mail/Fairfax Media

Former high-flying Nelson financial adviser Tony Mount will spend Christmas behind bars after being convicted for defrauding clients. Stacey Knott investigates his downfall.

Tony Mount seemed to have it all.

He had risen from working class beginnings in northern England to become a prominent financial adviser in Nelson. He drove around town in an Aston Martin convertible, had a large house in the Maitai Valley, sponsored Nelson Opera in the Park, and started an eco-paint company.

But after a long-running fraud investigation, his world came crashing down this week when he was jailed for ripping off and stealing from clients who trusted him with their investments.

Mount was found guilty in October of 74 counts of fraud. At his sentencing in Nelson District Court yesterday he was jailed for six years and nine months and ordered to serve a minimum of half the sentence.

He has lodged an appeal against his convictions.

After two different cases against him, one criminal, the other civil, Mount was finally caught out. Over a decade, he stole $510,671 from the 18 complainants in the indictment by inflating the purchase price of investments bought on their behalf, and by deflating the sale price of investments sold or redeemed.

In the civil case, brought by 20 investors, Mount has been ordered to pay $2.84 million, plus interest, expected to be about $900,000.

Mount is still listed as a director for Independent Financial Consultants in Nelson and the sole director of paint company BioPaints. In 1999, he was a finalist in the Financial Planner of the Year awards.

Back then, he was a credible man about town.

He had taken in a child of a friend who had died, was a supporter of the arts and was used as a source of media comment on the financial world.
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However, 15 years later, sitting alone in a courtroom, his offending was laid bare, as well as what the judge, Crown prosecutor and others said was his arrogant and untrustworthy character.

Mount, who represented himself at the trial and sentencing , has shown no remorse and seemed almost uninterested in what was happening.

Judge Arthur Tompkins highlighted Mount's "arrogant and aggressive fashion" that he used to "deflect and endeavour to defeat" his clients when they questioned him. Clients had trusted their life savings to Mount, who betrayed their trust to support his "lavish lifestyle", he said.

And, it was "particularly galling to the number of clients living around Nelson, who see that manifestation of that lavish lifestyle in the region".

Mount had maintained his innocence by filing appeals against his convictions, and prison was clearly the only outcome, the judge said.

"In many respects he is a stranger to honesty. What he says disconnects to what he does."

Clients and others who had involvement or interest in the case, including those who had just been involved in the civil case, listened with bated breath as Tompkins delivered his verdict.

Lawyer for the clients represented in the civil case, Rick Farr, spoke to them afterwards. He congratulated them on their tenacity for sticking to bring him to justice, despite Mount's at times "lavish defence".

Crown lawyer Jackson Webber told the court Mount's "gross breaches of trust were obvious"; he was "belligerent when challenged" and his victims were elderly and vulnerable.

It was motivated offending "influenced by greed and the lifestyle Mount was living".

He had not shown a "shred of remorse"

and lacked good character, Webber said. Mount's dishonest and manipulative actions from the first trial showed this, he said.

Mount's downfall has been attributed to one of his clients, Douglas Gregory. He had invested $300,000 from the sale of his mother's house with Mount in 2002. He said Mount was initially "so helpful" with his investments.

Gregory started to look into his investments, which he expected to get a lot more back from. He said calculations showed he should have made $100,000 in profit with his investment.

He had to work hard to convince others Mount was not to be trusted. "He was an icon around town," he recalled.

Gregory first went to lawyer Rick Farr in 2010. Farr visited Mount to relay the concerns.

"What struck me when I first went into his office was how large it was and he was the only person in it. That started to ring alarm bells for me because of what Mr Gregory had explained to us."

Farr recalled Mount refusing to entertain any suggestion of "rather dubious accounting. After that meeting he sent me an email demanding an apology from Mr Gregory".

At that point, they decided to get the police involved, but after realising this was not going to be immediate, and Farr finding he had a number of clients who had invested with Mount who had similar concerns, he put out a public notice to get investors to meet. About 30 came along.

They formed a plaintiffs' group, and had Mount's assets frozen in November 2010. Farr took on 20 plaintiffs in the case. Their's was a civil case, going on at the same time police were investigating the criminal case.

Farr says Mount's records were sparse and difficult to get hold of.

Through the process, it was discovered Mount had advanced $3.5 million personally to his company, BioPaints, with his income being a tiny fraction of that.

During the civil case, almost every preliminary order that was made was appealed or a review was sought, Farr said. It was expensive, and it was delaying the civil case.

Farr said they had to be careful to keep the two cases separate. Mount wanted the criminal case to be finished before the civil could start.

And, when it came to Mount's wealth, there were clear indicators of it.

"An indication of his wealth was his assets - one of them was his Aston Martin motor car, he bought for some $300,000 and sold it for what we were told was $120,000."

He doesn't know where that car went. Mount also had a property in St Arnaud that was sold around the same time. This was Mount dispersing his assets, says Farr.

Mount's house, valued in 2012, is worth $830,000.

There is freezing order on it so Mount cannot sell it, but the court is in the process of selling it.

There was $1.4m in cash that was frozen, though of that $800,000 was "released to him on application to the court to fund his lifestyle and his legal defences".

It was the plaintiffs' money being used against them.

Farr calls Mount a bully. He bullied his clients "into accepting what he was saying as gospel".

To keep the civil case going, they got a litigation funder on-board, LPF Group. Farr believes this was the first time this has happened in Nelson.

"The expense of the case and their [clients'] exposure to adverse costs was a real concern to a lot of people who had already lost a lot of money; a lot were older people."

If LPF had not got involved, Farr wonders if the case would have proceeded.

Farr is reluctant to comment on searching out Mount's other assets.

"Suffice to say we have some work still. The matter is not over yet."

Detective Paul Heathcote took on the criminal case in 2010, when he was approached by Gregory. Due to resources and other priorities, police were unable to look into his complaint until September 2010. When they did, Heathcote soon saw it was a case worth looking into.

Police executed a search warrant to get Gregory's documents. "From what we found there, that gave me the belief there may be other clients affected."

They got a second search warrant to recover other clients' files. "That's when the investigation commenced in earnest."

Police sent a letter to all known clients, past and present, explaining what they were doing, and what the allegation was.

There was about 100 of them, and about 80 responded, making official statements and providing documents.

Heathcote focused on a method he likened to "'clipping the ticket both when he sold and purchased", where Mount purchased and sold investments but misreported the values to his clients.

He put it to the clients there was "maybe some misappropriation of funds" from their portfolios.

Police needed to make a deeper examination to see the amounts, so called in expert help.

Investigators from Inland Revenue and the Serious Fraud Office were recruited. Initially, all they had was the paper evidence. Police seized Mount's computers and cloned them, but were unable to make sense of the programs and data on them.

Heathcote said he had to cut off offending before 2000.

"That was as far back as we could obtain banking records. It is my belief this was going on before then."

It was a challenge, he said. "It was always going to be complex and difficult, based on the evidence we had."

In an ideal world, the Serious Fraud Office would have taken it, he said.

However, their resources were stretched.

The Mount case was supervised and managed from the Nelson District, with additional national funding. It took about 12 months to investigate and bring to court.

And, in that first trial in July 2013, Mount handed over a laptop with printed documents. Mount intended it to confirm he was telling the truth and his figures were correct. It proved to do the opposite. It allowed police access to the figures provided to police by Mount's broker. Mount also lied to police, telling them it was the same laptop police had seized earlier.

The first trial was aborted, and the second trial began in October this year.

Mount's activities had been the focus of Heathcote's work for the past four years.

It's also been the most resourced investigation, in time and money, the district had undertaken.

It was of "huge" public interest, he believed. "More to the point, this man needed to be brought to account. He has put a lot of people in financial difficultly in their elderly and retirement life."

There was huge breaches of trust between Mount and his clients. "Some he was on personal terms with, and knowing he was stealing from them has had a lot of the clients distraught."

The Crown, police and courts are still working out if there will be additional charges.

Victim feels for Mount

While Tony Mount has been called a stranger to honesty, the man who got the ball rolling on his downfall can't help but feel sorry for him.

Speaking to the Nelson Mail after convicted fraudster Tony Mount's sentencing, former client Douglas Gregory said he was after justice, and got it.

Gregory has been involved in both the civil and the criminal cases against Mount.

He has been credited for bringing Mount's dealings to police attention. He went to police with his concerns in 2010, after doing the sums himself.

The retired plumber modestly says: "I'm just like that, it's one of my things.

"I didn't do anything special. I only initially did it just for my own satisfaction really, it just happened it did steamroll a bit when we went to the police."

Gregory wasn't looking to make any money from the civil case. Both cases were about bringing Mount to justice.

"I feel sorry for him in a way, but he was particularly arrogant especially when I was trying to get paperwork from him to make some judgments. He wasn't clever, his figures weren't clever," he said.

Geoff Gudsell was involved in the civil case seeking investors' money back. He had invested with Mount, before the year 2000.

He attended an initial public meeting in 2010, called by lawyer Rick Farr who wanted to gauge how many clients Mount may have ripped off.

"I don't think at the time we realised what a tremendous fight and battle he was going to put up.

"All of us in the end felt, while we did not expect to return any of the money, we have at least obtained some justice."

Between the two cases, clients spoken to said they hoped it would put him behind bars, as well as take away his assets.

In the past, Mount had claimed to come from humble beginnings - a Yorkshire coal-miner's son.

Clients spoken to yesterday questioned how he could have stolen off the same sort of people as he had come from.


1997: Tony Mount and wife Kaye become guardians of a friend's daughter after her parents die in a road accident in the Lewis Pass.

1999: Mount is a finalist in the inaugural Financial Planner of the Year awards.

2009: Mount's paint company, BioPaints, is the new principal sponsor for Opera in the Park, offering free tickets for 2010.

February 2010:: In a profile on Mount, he says his father worked in a Yorkshire coal mine for 30 years. In 1987 he set up his financial planning business, after reading an article that advised people to get a good financial planner.

September 2010: Mount is charged with fraud. He tells the Mail the "charge came out of the blue". After his first court appearance, at least 40 clients contact police. A further article says he faces a further 58 fraud charges, with more possible.

October 2010: Mount fires all BioPaints employees. A group of investors take civil action against Mount to try to freeze some of his assets until the police criminal investigation is complete. Mount later appeals the decision.

November 2010: Mount's BioPaints is no longer sponsoring Opera in the Park

March 2011: Mount committed to stand trial on 137 fraud charges.

April 2011: A group of former clients successfully apply to have Mount's assets refrozen.

October 2011: Police lay 390 new charges against Mount, bringing it to 527 fraud charges totalling $1.4 million.

June 2013: Stands trial in the Nelson District Court on 77 fraud charges. Mount represented by defence lawyer Jonathan Eaton. Crown alleges Mount skimmed money from his clients' investments by telling them investments cost more than they did and told them investments had sold for less than they actually realised. Clients testify they did not receive a lot of information on their investments.

July 2013: The trial is aborted as more information comes to light.

October 2014: A new trial held in the Nelson District Court. Expert witnesses called, including from the Serious Fraud Office, and Inland Revenue. It is revealed that Mount's trial in 2013 was aborted after he handed over a laptop that had a working copy of a program called IMS on it which Mount used for his business.

Police had cloned his computers when he was first charged in 2010, but were unable to make sense of data on them, because the IMS software used a specific operating system. With the laptop they can make sense of data and it backs up their findings.

Detective Paul Heathcote tells the court Mount had claimed it was the same laptop, seized and returned in 2011. Evidence proves otherwise.

Mount elects not to give evidence. Tompkins finds Mount guilty of all charges.

December 2014: Mount sentenced to six years nine months on criminal charges.

Mount wanted a High Court decision that he should pay clients in the civil case $2.9m, overturned. The Appeal Court dismisses his appeal. Mount ordered to pay $2.84m, plus interest expected to be about $900,000, bringing the total to about $3.7m.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Man jailed for fatally stabbing friend

For Nelson Mail/Fairfax Media
Nelson man Kirk Day has been sentenced to six and a half years for killing Carl Joblin over a lit cigarette and a broken guitar.
A Nelson High Court jury found Day guilty of manslaughter in September  this year, for stabbing Joblin to death in a Nile St house on August 4 last year.
Today, Justice Joseph Williams sentenced Day to six and a half years imprisonment with no minimum set.  Day has already served 18 months of the sentence while he was remanded in custody at Papanui Prison in Christchurch.
Over the course of the trial, the court heard that Day killed Joblin after a group of five, made up of Day, Joblin, siblings Delrose and Nathan Innes and friend Peter Harvey had been drinking at a Nile St house Day’s parents had rented and Day lived in.
Harvey lit a cigarette inside, angering Day who then pushed Harvey over and straddled him. Joblin pushed Day off Harvey, causing Day to fall on his guitar and break it.
Day then stabbed Joblin with a 15cm length blade kitchen knife, inflicting fatal wounds.
Day fled the scene, and crashed his car in Whakatu Drive, where he was arrested.
During the trial the  six-man, six-woman jury heard from witnesses who were at the house at the time of the attack and emergency services who attended both scenes.
They also heard from Day’s former partner Zelia Smart who spoke about Day’s mental and addiction issues. Smart considered herself his support person.
During the trial, Day’s parents spoke about his history of panic attacks. Day also gave evidence and spoke of gaps in his recollection of events on the night. He had insisted he had no intention to kill Joblin.
He said he had been experiencing a panic attack that night, and had taken a knife to try to get a group of visitors to leave. He said he did not remember stabbing Joblin.
The trial was presided over by Justice Joseph Williams, with defence lawyers Tony Bamford and Luke Acland representing Day, while the Crown was represented by Jackson Webber and Sophie O’Donoghue.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Happy hashtag creates social media buzz

For Nelson Mail/Fairfax Media

A Nelson businesswoman is hashtagging her way to happiness, and wants others to jump on board.
Nelson leadership coach Suzi McAlpine aims to empower people when they feel blue by getting them to think of what makes you happy, draw it, and put it on the internet.
McAlpine is aiming for her #myhappything campaign to become a movement, to get people to realise the power they have in lifting their spirits.
McAlpine said she was recently "dealing with some disappointments with human nature" and realised while she was not the only person who experienced ups and down, she could control how she reacted to them.
"I realised there's always something in our power we can do to lift our spirits."
She was inspired by Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl's famous quote: "everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."
Meditating is her "happy thing". She spent her week asking people she met, clients, passengers on a plane or people on the street "what's one thing you do, which makes you feel happy, or lifts your spirits, when you do it?"
In getting people to think about what made them happy, she said it was a good experience in appreciation.
"There is enjoyment found in doing it, it's really fun, they have fun drawing the thing, in the process of doing it, they already feel happy."
So far, people had posted that they liked spending time with their family, hugs from their children, working out, and helping other people .
"I want people to connect with the message...there's always something you can do to feel better."
To take part in the campaign, write down your ‘happy thing' on a piece of paper - it can be a sketch, a few words, or whatever you feel helps to describe it, take a photo of you holding the sign, and Post it on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #myhappything.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Court told farmer refused to feed starving stock

For Nelson Mail/Fairfax Media

A court has been told of council officers seeing dead and malnourished stock at a dairy farm near Murchison, and a farmer who allegedly refused to buy feed for them.
Dairy farmer Phillip Woolley is denying charges brought by Tasman District Council at the Nelson District Court, relating to effluent at his Matakitaki farm.
Yesterday was the first day of the trial, presided over by Judge Jeff Smith.
Woolley, from Tuamarina in Marlborough, farm manager Hendrik Jordaan and Awarua Farm are charged with multiple breaches of the Tasman Resource Management Plan (TRMP) and the Resource Management Act which allegedly saw ponding of effluent in breach of the TRMP, stored effluent solids on unsealed ground, also in breach of the TRMP, and grazing a herd in a manner that may have resulted in the discharge of effluent and sediment into a nearby watercourse.
The charges date back to November 2012.
Jordaan indicated through his counsel, Tony Bamford, that he would plead guilty to the charges and file for discharge without conviction.
Lawyer David Clark appeared for Awarua Farm and Woolley.
There were a total of 16 charges against the three defendants; 12 of those were against Woolley and the farm.
The TDC, represented by lawyer Antoinette Besier, said the farmer had long history of enforcement orders dating back to the council's first inspection in 2004.
The Environment Court had issued enforcement orders in 2006 with respect to the management of dairy farm effluent.
The prosecution's first witness, TDC compliance officer Kathryn Bunting, described the farm as "very large", developed over two old river terraces, with 880 cows. It had streams running through it, and it was estimated to be worth $9.5 million, with Woolley owning 99 per cent of the shares and his wife Suzanne the other 1 per cent.
Bunting said the farm's effluent discharge had to comply with the TRMP. Effluent had to be sealed to stop it contaminating water sources and it could not be pooled on a surface for more than an hour.
On November 1 2012 she saw "a number of compliance issues", with the storage of effluent in an unsealed area, pooling of it on a paddock and effluent being discharged into an unnamed stream as a result of intensive grazing.
She had also seen "many malnourished animals" while on the farm.
"It did stand out how much dead stock there was on the farm at that time."
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She said she spoke with a farmhand, who did not know about previous enforcement orders.
She saw farm workers trying to free stock caught in mud near the unnamed stream.
Former farm manager Hendrik Jordaan, who had worked at the farm from June 2012 to May 2013, was called as a prosecution witness. He described his time there as "stressful" and said Woolley did not give him any independence in funding for maintenance of the farm, even small items. Woolley was not often at the farm, and they communicated by phone and email.
He said he was concerned the cows did not have enough to eat. He asked Woolley for supplementary food for them on a number of occasions. He said Woolley was not interested in the the condition of his cows.
He said he decided to graze the "most under-fed and poorest condition" stock next to the stream for a day.
He said they were "desperate for feed".
"The feed was so scarce through the rest of the farm, Phil had not supplied feed for the cows."
He had told a farmhand to move the cows after one day of grazing near the unnamed stream but this was not done, and the TDC visited while Jordaan was on leave. The TDC saw two of the cows stuck in the mud, and sediments and effluent had gone into the stream.
Jordaan had suggested changes to the farm, but said Woolley did not act on them.
"Phil was well aware of issues of effluent ponding, but never did anything about it."
He wanted to buy concrete to ensure effluent was stored properly, but said Woolley would not give him permission.
He said he was in an "impossible position" at the farm as he did not have control over anything.
A former farm employee, Khyle Brookland, also described food shortages on the farm, and Woolley refusing to fix problems. He said Woolley told him to starve the stock.
The court also heard from TDC scientist Trevor James, who looked at the water quality in rivers and streams in the area, both up and downstream from the farm.
James said the TDC looked at water quality at several sites in the area, on an ongoing basis. Concentrations of the E coli bacteria (which came from animals) were higher after rain in the Matakitaki river. Levels were higher downstream than sample spots upstream from the farm.
He said the unnamed stream on the farm was an "unhealthy waterway system".
He said during rain contaminants ran off the farm and into the unnamed stream, which fed into the Matakitaki river. There was a risk to humans who used the river downstream from the farm as they could get ill from bacteria.
The hearing is to continue, with defence witnesses expected to be called today.