Joint Forestry/Police operation targets trespassers and poachers

Wednesday 7 April 2010, 1:02PM
By New Zealand Police


A joint operation between Rotorua Police and forest security agencies has resulted in 736 people being trespassed from commercial forestry areas in the past nine months for not having permission, permits and/or firearms licences.

The nine month operation – called “Operation Pita” – was developed in an effort to reduce crime, poaching and trespassing in forestry areas. The operation will continue during the upcoming hunting season and beyond, with other agency partners becoming involved in the future.

Trespass notices are valid for two years from the date of issue, preventing access to the area involved. Trespassers can also be prosecuted for repeating offending.

Rotorua Police Arms Officer, Mike Keefe, says the operation is directed at people in commercial forests, National Parks and private property in the Bay of Plenty and South Waikato areas.

“We are fortunate to live in a large geographic area that includes many excellent public and private hunting areas. Thousands of people take advantage of hunting in these areas every year and they enjoy a great deal of success.

“The vast majority of hunters comply with the legal requirements around getting permission and/or permits for these areas, however, unfortunately a number of people still do not comply every year.

Mr Keefe says these are also the same people who often do not have a firearms licence and many are responsible for other crimes in these areas, including wilful damage, drug offences, the dumping and burning of stolen cars, illegal cutting of firewood, removal of plants and vegetation, theft of wood products, lighting illegal fires, stock thefts from farms, as well as minor and serious traffic offences involving high speeds.

“Obviously these activities are illegal, but their behaviour also adds a significant safety risk.

“Unfortunately there are still a number of firearms injuries during hunting every year. If people don’t have permits, then we don’t know where they are if something goes wrong. But just as importantly, these people are missing important safety messages."

Mr Keefe says people trespassed from hunting areas also run the risk of losing their firearms licence.

“An important part of holding a firearms licence is what’s known as being "a fit and proper person". In effect, this means an individual must be compliant with the general laws of the land and be of sound mind.

"Receiving a trespass notice compromises this status. The holders of firearms licences will have their status reviewed wherever a breach of the law has been committed. This may result in the revocation of the firearms licence and seizure of any firearms held in their possession."

The status of approximately 250 firearms licence holders is currently under review. A number of these people are from outside of the BOP/South Waikato Region.

Mr Keefe says licence holders will be monitored on an ongoing basis, and emphasises the fact that holding a firearms licence is a privilege and not a matter of right.

He has applauded the stance taken by the Taupo based Hunters and Habitats club where they have adopted a policy of excluding those convicted of poaching and trespassing from being part of their hunting based competitions. (REF: Taupo Times 17/3/2010)