DOC drops charge against man prosecuted for trapping possums

Napier man Clayton Freeman was stunned the Conservation Department took him to court for trapping possums
JOHN COWPLAND/ALPHAPIX

Napier man Clayton Freeman was stunned the Conservation Department took him to court for trapping possums

The Conservation Department has backed down from charging a man for trapping possums in a forest park.

Napier man Clayton Freeman, 48, was charged with "pursuing animals in a conservation area" without a permit. 

The department considers possums "one of the greatest threats to our natural environment". They eat native bush, insects and the eggs of native birds

The Conservation Department says possums are "one of the greatest threats to our natural environment".
THE GRAF BOYS

The Conservation Department says possums are "one of the greatest threats to our natural environment".

Freeman was camping with a friend at in the Kaweka Forest Park, west of Hastings, in August last year, and the alleged offending occurred between the 9th and 11th.

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Freeman said a friend taught him how to use the traps and he liked the idea so he bought 22 traps and began trapping for himself.

In August the department interviewed him after it received reports of wood being taken. He admitted taking dead kanuka to use as firewood, and said he had been in the area to trap possums.

In February the department charged him with taking plants without consent and for trapping without a permit.

Freeman appeared in Napier District Court in March and pleaded not guilty to both charges.

But when the department dropped the trapping charge Freeman pleaded guilty to taking 2-3 cubic metres of dead kanuka, valued at $300. He appeared in Napier District Court last week and was fined $500 and ordered to pay court costs.

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"I'm just glad it's all behind me to be honest. I really don't know why they charged me for either offence. I was genuinely sorry for taking the wood. I had no idea it couldn't be taken. And I'm sorry I didn't have a permit for the trapping. I knew getting rid of possums was okay, I just didn't know you needed a permit. I thought I could have been given a formal warning for both. It's all been a bit full-on actually," Freeman said.

"It was a bloody nightmare," he said.

After he was interviewed in August Freeman was granted a trapping permit.

He sold the fur from the possums. Over the three months he had the permit he was trapping 3-4 days a week and estimates he killed about 100 possums and made "a few hundred bucks".

"It was a hell of a lot of work for not that much money. But that's a lot of trees that were saved. And I was catching quite a few rats too," he said.

He was not sure whether he would go trapping again.

"I've still got my traps. I was considering selling them actually. I could do with the money back really," he said.

A spokesman for the department said the bigger offence had been the taking of the firewood and Freeman had been given a formal warning for trapping possums without a permit.

 - Stuff

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