Marotere/Hen and Chicken Islands
Image: Les Molloy | ©

Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication. 


An Auckland man who illegally landed on a pest-free conservation island has been slapped with an $800 fine.

Date:  14 June 2022

The Department of Conservation (DOC) pursued an investigation against the boatie earlier this year after he rowed a dinghy to Whatupuke – part of the Marotere/Hen and Chicken Islands off Northland – with the intention of going for a walk.

The pest-free Marotere/Hen and Chicken Islands are nature reserves and home to a range of protected and high conservation value native species. The islands are closed to the public. Anyone intending to visit – usually for research or science purposes – must have permission from DOC. Visits to the islands are also subject to strict biosecurity protocols.

The man’s unauthorised landing on Whatupuke breached the Reserves Act.

DOC’s Investigations Team Lead Dylan Swain says the boatie was in the island group sheltering from a passing weather front, when he spotted a group of people on Whatupuke.

“The group of people was in fact DOC’s Weed Team, who periodically visit the island to control pest plant species,” Dylan Swain says.

“This person came ashore expecting he could go for a recreational walk – when in fact there are DOC signs on the island clearly stating it’s not open for the public.”

When the Weed Team Lead approached the man, he agreed to leave after providing his personal details.

Dylan Swain says DOC opted to pursue an infringement against the man because, despite complying with instructions to leave the island, he ignored freely available information advising people they could not visit.

“Aside from the signs on the island which clearly state landing is prohibited on Whatupuke, there’s easily accessible information about these islands through the internet and specialist boating and fishing apps and websites,” Dylan Swain says.

DOC took several months to track down the boatie, who initially disputed the infringement fine but is now paying it off.

“Naivety isn’t an excuse to break the rules,” Dylan Swain says.

“It’s very clear these islands are off-limits to the public, and this gentleman has disregarded that.”

DOC opted to publicise the case as a reminder to New Zealanders that landing on nature reserve islands is prohibited.

“Years of hard conservation work have gone into protecting these islands and the species living there,” Dylan Swain says.

“Illegal landings risk that work – whether it be a stray pest or seeds coming ashore with an unauthorised visitor.”

DOC’s Infringement System was introduced in September 2020. Infringement notices can deal with many breaches of the rules that are not serious enough for prosecution. Infringements fines range from $200 to $800, depending on the offence.


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