A SUNRAYSIA dried fruit grower has been fined for tampering with his water meter but told a magistrate he never intended to steal any water.
Instead, Peter Sandler said he placed two pipes in his meter to help him deal with water quality issues, claiming debris from leaves and yabbies had made its way into his supply.
Lower Murray Water’s compliance co-ordinator Matthew Wilkes told the Mildura Magistrates’ Court workers discovered the pipes when they were working on the electromagnetic flow meter at Sandler’s Koorlong Avenue property in July last year.
Sandler represented himself at court and handed up a letter to Magistrate Andrew McKenna, claiming the pipes were there to help him clean his water supply because he had experienced problems with debris and blue-green algae.
One of the pipes was about the size of a regular garden poly pipe, while the other was “much larger”, the court was told.
Sandler said the issues dated back to when his water supply came through an open channel, which has since been decommissioned.
However, Mr Wilkes said LMW had not been told of any water quality issues leading up to the date the pipes were found in Sandler’s meter.
Sandler told the court he had flow data to show he had not pumped water above and beyond his entitlement.
He said he lost his entire dried fruit crop in the November 2016 storm that caused tens of millions of dollars damage across the district and did not have reason to water his plantings much after the hail left him without a single berry.
Sandler pleaded guilty, saying he had made efforts to resolve the problem out of court but was not able to arrange a meeting with the relevant LMW staff member until next week.
While the maximum penalty for meter tampering was about $10,000 or six months imprisonment, Mr Wilkes was unable to indicate the usual penalty because it was an uncommon offence.
“We have not had a charge of this nature before,” Mr Wilkes said.
Mr McKenna said there was no evidence before him to prove any water was wrongly pumped or to show how long the pipes had been there.
Sandler was fined $750 without conviction.
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