Darren Moffitt on a prior hunting trip. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Heli-shooter ‘extremely reckless’

ARTHUR HAWKES
arthur.hawkes@age.co.nz

Masterton-resident Darren Moffitt was out stalking goats in the Tararua Forest Park on Monday morning.

A few hours into his trip, a helicopter, operated by contractors working on behalf of the Department of Conservation, appeared overhead and fired a burst of semi-automatic rounds at some feral goats, just 30 metres from his position.

Moffitt, who was extremely startled, said they had failed to spot him and should have taken more care to look out for people in the bush.

“All of a sudden I heard a massive roar come up from the opposite gully, and shots firing out from the helicopter.

“I heard a lot of commotion around me, and I thought I should get out of the way – then the helicopter dropped off and disappeared.

“They were obviously firing at a goat that was on the run above me, and I was only about 30m below it.”

Moffitt said he was concerned about the shooting taking place in a forested public area, and how there was no warning that people could have been firing into the bush from a helicopter.

“It’s a public track, and a public area, and I was directly below this animal that they were letting off all these shots at. I could have easily been hit – I think it was extremely reckless.

“As a firearms licence holder myself, you’re taught that you don’t shoot at stuff on the run, and you always take note of what’s behind and around the target.

“It was scary really, because the goats were running straight towards where I was, and they were firing at them, about five or six shots.”

Moffitt said he had since spoken to the police about the issue, who said they’d let DOC investigate internally.

DOC spokesman Jim Flack said that “the safety of all people using public conservation land is DOC’s highest priority, whether they are walkers, trampers, hunters, staff or contractors doing conservation work.

“It is very concerning to hear that a person hunting in Tararua Forest Park felt they were in danger from a contractor shooting goats from a helicopter.

“I spoke to Mr Moffitt today and we are treating his report very seriously.

“We are gathering all the information we can on what happened and cannot comment further until we have looked at that.”

Moffitt made the point that there was no centralised system in place to see when and where culling operations would be taking place, something he thought should be accessible.

“It could be as simple as something on the DOC website.”