Protection of New Zealand’s vulnerable native wildlife from smuggling, poaching and hunting will be modernised and improved by a bill introduced to Parliament today, Conservation Minister Maggie Barry says.
The Wildlife (Powers) Amendment Bill will reform the Wildlife Act 1953 to give full-time DOC rangers new powers when they encounter offences in progress.
“Under the Act, DOC is responsible for the investigation and prosecution of crimes against native wildlife, including poaching,” Ms Barry says.
DOC’s enforcement role under the Act is carried out by specialist, warranted rangers who work closely with police.
“The Act’s enforcement powers haven’t been updated for 60 years and in many cases are hopelessly out of date, making it more difficult for these hard-working DOC staff to do their jobs,” Ms Barry says.
“For example, the Act currently specifies that rangers can only call for assistance from men, if they need help from a member of the public.
“The intention of this amendment bill is to modernise the legislation and empower DOC’s specialist staff to protect our wildlife from exploitation.”
If the Bill is passed into law, warranted DOC wildlife rangers will have the authority to arrest in cases of serious offending against protected wildlife or obstruction of investigation into such offences.
It will also give warranted rangers four new standard powers:
- The ability to take action to prevent an offence about to occur or in progress.
- Temporarily stop persons suspected of an offence to allow investigation.
- Seize a broader range of evidence such as laptops, cameras and mobile phones.
- Require identification details from suspected offenders.
“Poaching and smuggling of native animals like tuatara, geckoes and parrots is completely unacceptable, as is hunting of protected species,” Ms Barry says. “This reform means DOC takes ownership of dealing quickly and efficiently with wildlife crime.”
The bill maintains the status quo for Fish & Game officers and will not alter their existing powers.