Thanks to the efforts of some recreational hunters, the Department of Conservation (DOC) has successfully prosecuted a commercial helicopter operator for illegally heli-hunting in a recreational hunting area (RHA).
Last week in the Rangiora District Court, Simon Lawn, Phillip Coll and Ahaura Helicopters Ltd were convicted on all charges for undertaking wild animal recovery operations (WARO) in Lake Sumner Forest Park, North Canterbury.
The two individuals and the company received a total of $3150 in fines and $2646 in costs for culling and recovering deer in the Lake Sumner recreational hunting area.
DOC Waimakariri staff received independent reports from two groups of hunters who noted a helicopter being used to shoot and recover deer in the Mackenzie and McMillan catchments in the early morning of the 7 March 2010.
“We hope the successful prosecution sends a strong message to WARO operators that both DOC and recreational hunters are committed to protecting RHAs from illegal WARO activities,” said DOC Waimakariri Area Manager Kingsley Timpson.
“We are very grateful for the detailed information provided by both parties as to the exact time, location, movements and notable features about the helicopter. This has enabled us to lay charges against the two individuals and the company under the 1977 Wild Animal Control Act.”
This is the first successful prosecution of this nature for the Department and is due to the high quality of the information supplied by the hunters.
RHAs are set up so recreational hunters can access and stay in remote areas for the enjoyment and skill of hunting on foot, without suddenly being disturbed by, or competing with, commercial helicopters also after the same animal.
Lake Sumner recreational hunting area is one of eight RHAs in the country set aside in the early 80s solely for recreational hunting. Commercial helicopter operators are not permitted to operate in these areas under their current WARO permit conditions.
According to Kingsley Timpson, it has been hard in the past to enforce these conditions due to the remoteness of RHAs and difficulty in positively identifying alleged offenders.
“We cannot be in all places at all times and are very reliant on the public to be our ‘eyes and ears’ when it comes to noting and reporting illegal activities on public conservation land”.