By Hayley Gastmeier
Poaching is “more serious” now than it ever has been before, an expert Wairarapa hunter has claimed.
Police say poaching is so common on some properties that land owners are not even reporting the crimes.
And with poaching incidents likely to increase in the lead up to Christmas, some say the risk of a person being shot is real.
New Zealand Deerstalkers’ Association’s Howard Egan, of the Wairarapa branch, said poaching was a “serious” problem which was on the increase.
“With more deer becoming available [due to a decrease in demand for wild venison exports] hunters who have not grown up with the hunting ethic, which is the case in New Zealand, are tempted to just go out driving around the roads, spotlighting, and deliberately poaching on land where they know the owner is not present.”
Mr Egan said those things would not happen in European countries or in North America, where police “place a high priority on poaching, poaching prevention and catching poachers”.
He said New Zealand was “centuries behind the times” when it came to the issue.
“It’s been a problem for decades and unfortunately our police departments have got considerable loads on their time and have done for a considerable period, and they just aren’t able to give a high priority to poaching.”
Mr Egan, a hunter for over 60 years, who has written books and papers on hunting and its ethics, said many hunters did not bother obtaining permits before they took to the sport in places such as the Tararua Ranges.
“The dangers of that is with other activities taking place, if those other activities have no knowledge of guns being in the area it increases the risk of so-called accidental death.”
Instances of illegal hunting and dangerous spotlighting became so bad for Mataikona residents, they recently formed a Community Support network to combat the problem.
Marie Clement is co-ordinator for the Mataikona – Pack Spur Group, consisting of 37 concerned residents.
“We came together in May because we had had enough of it. [The incidents] have just kept increasing for the last five years.”
The team pulled together to buy security cameras which have been placed on Mataikona Rd and Pack Spur Rd to capture number plates of vehicles visiting the area.
A caretaker of a Pack Spur Rd farm, who did not want to be named, said before the cameras were installed people were spotlighting on the 100-acre property at least once a week.
“What they didn’t realise was that there was a bunch of lifestyle blocks and caravans near where they were shooting.”
With the cameras residents have seen “a big drop off” in incidents, he said.
In an attempt to lessen poaching crimes, police had been working closely with rural communities by the appointment of a rural communities police officer, Constable Michele Clarke.
Since taking on the role in May, Ms Clarke has attended “a handful” of illegal hunting incidents.
“From talking to locals it appears there have been a few other incidents that haven’t made their way to [police],” she said.
“[Some community members] deal with that stuff all the time and it’s so common they just get on with things.”
Wairarapa Police Sergeant Ian Osland said historically leading up to the Christmas period there was a “heightened risk” of the problem increasing.
“But with the work that has been going on in the rural community, plus the deployment and support from Constable Clarke to raise awareness and educate the rural communities, we envisage that will have a very positive impact.”