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Alleged poachers unleash on family pet

A family plagued by poachers for decades are distraught at the cold-blooded killing of a beloved pet.

Hinakura residents Pip and Shane Wilkinson woke to gunshots in the early hours of Saturday morning, and the sight of their hand-raised deer, Baby, maimed in their front paddock.

“This is no different from a little pet pony or dog of someone living in town,” Pip said.

“It’s like a member of our family has been taken.”

Baby, a 10-year-old hind, was behind a fence 60 metres from the house when she was shot multiple times.

The alleged poachers took off, with Shane following at high speed on a motorbike – the belts of which snapped during the chase – while Pip phoned the police.

The family subsequently learned armed police officers apprehended a vehicle travelling at speed near Parkvale on Saturday morning.

Pip said the entire incident was “heinous”, with Shane forced to put Baby down.

She said the proximity of the poachers made it particularly distressing.

“That’s our safe place – we’ve got our granddaughter staying with us some nights, our son was in the house as well. We shouldn’t have to be dealing with this.”

Shane said poaching has long been rampant in Wairarapa – “We’ve had years and years of it; everyone has got their stories – but the latest incident involving the death of a pet is the final straw”.

He said poachers could be heard ‘spotlighting’ from the road on an almost weekly basis, and on at least four occasions, he has heard bullets hiss past his head while farming at blocks in Ruakokoputuna and Hinakura.

“I’m talking about noises you should only hear in war. The bullet spits above your head, and then you hear the shot – bang!”

Due to limited rural policing resources, and poaching being notoriously difficult to prove, Shane said it is often up to the owners to try and catch poachers in the act.

Police, meanwhile, advise landowners to identify but not approach poachers.

“But it’s dark, and the only way you can identify people is to confront them – we’ve had so many near fights,” Shane said.

“But what do we do? Just sit back and let them take our stock? Take our sheep and cattle?”

Neighbouring farmers Jeanne and Mo Diederich at Glendhu Station, and Kate Reedy at Pahaoa Station, said they had suffered numerous stock losses to poachers over the years.

“We had a cow shot and left on the side of the road,” Reedy said. “She still had her little baby calf with her.”

The Diederichs said a few years ago, 17 sheep disappeared in one night, but more troubling was a poaching incident that happened within metres of their daughter in the middle of the farm.

“A stag was shot on the brow just above her. The guy chopped off the head and ran for it,” Jeanne said.

Poaching is a “guaranteed” accident waiting to happen, Mo said.

“But more worrying than anything are these people at night shooting from their vehicles.

“We’re fed up. We could hang them by a tree, but you never see them. They’re scumbags.”

Federated Farmers Wairarapa president David Hayes said poaching is a long-standing issue.

“There is plenty of wild deer out there at the moment.

“I suppose the message is not to be a stupid bastard going out shooting where there could be an opportunity to do it with permission and safely, rather than these crazy, outrageous and ridiculous things we’re seeing.

“It’s just not safe. Not only are you killing an animal, which is terrible for the owner, but it’s dangerous.

“People get hurt when firearms are used badly.”

Wairarapa police have brought a number of illegal hunting prosecutions in recent years. The offence carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison and $100,000 fine in New Zealand.

In 2019, three men were found guilty of poaching a $11,500 trophy stag from a Masterton game reserve and were e3ach ordered to complete 50 hours community service and pay $2000 in reparation.

In 2020, police charged two men with illegal hunting after they were photographed while poaching on land near Tinui.

At the time, Wairarapa Police Area Commander Scott Miller said it was a good example of what could be achieved when poaching is reported to police.

Three people appeared in Masterton District Court yesterday facing a raft of charges including unlawful hunting, possessing a gun, and cruelty to animals. They are scheduled to reappear at the end of this month.

Mary Argue
Mary Argue
Mary Argue is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with an interest in justice and the region’s emergency services, regularly covering Masterton District Court, Fire and Emergency and Police.

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