12 Jul 2018

Rose Renton: 'I stand by what I did'

6:29 pm on 12 July 2018

The woman convicted today of throwing rat poison at Nelson MP Nick Smith says she was prepared to risk a conviction in order to highlight the conversation around the use of poison in wildlife areas.

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Rose Renton (file) Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

Rose Renton was found guilty of offensive behaviour and fined $400 dollars for rubbing rat poison on Dr Smith at the city's Saturday market last year.

The decision followed a two-hour long deliberation by JPs at Nelson District Court.

Dr Smith, who was Environment Minister at the time, said Renton and another protester rubbed rat poison on him while he was at his National Party caravan, where he holds weekly constituent meetings.

Dr Smith said he had poison rubbed in his hair and clothes.

Renton maintained she only ever touched him lightly.

During sentencing today, Justice of the Peace David Whyte said Renton "contended her behaviour was a symbolic gesture, and the exercise of her right to freedom of expression".

Mr Whyte said the offending directly impacted on public order and had several aggravating features.

"The offending was pre-meditated and deliberate, real poison was used in a public market place, there was little regard for the risk of...to the safety and health of the persons gathered there."

Mr Whyte spent considerable time analysing what constituted offensive behaviour.


It was a point challenged early on by defence lawyer Sue Grey, who carried out much of the legal work for free.

Speaking outside court, she said it was a disappointing decision, but it had not been futile.

"What it's done is it's highlighted some really important issues, about police processes, the risk of political interference, the lack of adherence to the Solicitor General's guidelines - so a lack of protection for members of the public who are charge by the police."

Ms Grey said it also highlighted the need for informed public decision about the way poisons were used.

Renton said she stood by what she did.

"It's tiring to have to front something, but sometimes you have to be that person and stand up, and I'm passionate about nature, and keeping our land clean, and 1080 and Brodificoum is not a way to do that.

"So I stand by what I did and the court has made its decision today."

Renton conceded her actions threatened the safety of people around her, but did not think it compared with large-scale poison drops.

"On one hand I get charged with being offensive, yet our environmentalists are violating the entire length of New Zealand with 1080."

Dr Smith has welcomed the verdict, saying people were entitled to express their opinions, but throwing and rubbing poison on another person had been rightly confirmed by the court as offensive behaviour.

"The Nelson Market is a wonderful, friendly, weekly event for locals and visitors to Nelson, and this verdict is also important in protecting its reputation as a peaceful place where people of whatever opinion are respected."

Dr Smith, who has been in politics for almost 30 years and has dealt with a death threat in the past, said he was taken aback by what he described as an ugly incident.

"Not just for myself but also for staff and volunteers that support my presence at the market each week - nor is it the first time that this debate about poison use in New Zealand has got out of control."

Dr Smith said he admired the steps taken by the new government to further expand National's Battle for our Birds pest control programme.