Introduction

DOC says it welcomes the arrest of a man over threats made against staff, saying this particular case has been harrowing.

Date:  07 November 2018

Police have arrested and charged a man with blackmail in relation to four threatening letters that were sent to the New Plymouth DOC office over the past year. 

Director General Lou Sanson says these letters were extremely nasty and DOC referred them straight to the police.

“I want to thank Police and DOC staff who have worked tirelessly on this case. It is completely unacceptable for anyone to threaten or intimidate DOC staff. This case demonstrates that action will be taken when any criminal offending occurs,” Mr Sanson says.

Recently there has been a significant increase in threats and abuse against DOC staff, both in person and online. Threats are mainly centred around the Department’s use of aerial 1080 to rid conservation land of rats, stoats and possums which are decimating New Zealand’s native bird species.

“1080 is the best tool for the job in large, rugged or remote areas and if we don’t use it forests will continue to be devastated by pests and we could lose our precious birds such as kiwi, mohua, and kokako,” Lou Sanson says.

“Where we are using 1080 to target predators, our native species have started to recover.

“DOC staff need to be able to get on with their job of protecting conservation areas without fear of being harmed or harassed,” says Mr Sanson.

Background information 

In recent times the number and intensity of threats to staff has increased. Please note: 

  • This bar graph is for all threats – not just associated with 1080 although they form the bulk of the statistics.
  • DOC has only been tracking social media incidents since August.
  • DOC introduced stronger reporting measures part way through the year because of the increased level of threats, so the reporting is more robust.

External threat = DOC staff and their families have been verbally abused by people – drive-bys or personal confrontations.

External harassment = general abuse of DOC or staff.

Social media threat is direct personal attack

Social media harassment is general abuse


Analysis of harassments and threats received between 1 January 2018 and 29 October 2018

There are plenty of examples in addition to the ones below.

Direct

  • Staff members have had their vehicles sabotaged (tyres slashed, wheel nuts loosened).
  • Two DOC vehicles encountered a vehicle with anti 1080 slogans painted on it. The vehicle overtook the back DOC vehicle and slowed in front causing the DOC driver to brake. The anti-1080 vehicle then overtook the front DOC vehicle and honked before speeding off.
  • A staff member went to enter a café, when a couple of people outside another building verbally abused him. The staff member reassessed the situation and chose to leave.
  • While driving in a remote area, a staff member encountered a hikoi leader, protesting on the side of the road. The staff member felt uncomfortable about the possibility of encountering more protestors in such an isolated area.
  • Signs and billboards posted with messages such as “blood will flow”.
  • Two protesters entered a DOC office and questioned staff about operations. The interaction was cordial, however the protesters recorded the event making the staff feel uncomfortable.

Indirect

  • DOC staff received an email containing threats to the safety of staff, contractors, and to property.
  • A post on DOC’s Facebook page: "Hi hope your enjoying your day, I'd just like to say, if my daughter is effect by 1080 poison due to it being tossed into our water supply, I myself will find each of you doc muppets and slaughter the skin off your faces and have you living inches before death".
  • Phone calls threatening to interfere with operations.
  • A staff member fielded a phone call from a member of the public and received a tirade of verbal abuse and threatening statements towards the Department.
  • Following a radio interview, serious threats to the safety of individual staff members were made on social media.

Contact

For media enquiries contact:

Phone: +64 4 496 1911
Email: media@doc.govt.nz

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