Abuse hurled at DOC rangers

Irate divers who breached the Matiu/Somes Island biosecurity cordon hurled abuse at Department of Conservation rangers before police were called in.

Visiting members of the public watched on Saturday as a woman in an inflatable boat and a man diving for seafood in a wetsuit swore at resident rangers Jo Greenmann and Daryl Stephens after being asked to get off rocks on the southwest corner of the island.

''It certainly was an unpleasant interaction,'' Mrs Greenman said. ''They were abusive from the first sentence.''

A volunteer patroller alerted rangers after spotting the pair's boat anchored as the man climbed on to rocks with his catch bag.

People are allowed to anchor, swim, fish, snorkel and dive anywhere around the island, but cannot come ashore or onto the surrounding rocks.

Under the reserves and conservation acts, it is prohibited to land on the scientific and historic reserve except at the main wharf and beach.

Breaches can result in prosecution and a fine of up to $2000.

The barrier was breached about 16 to 20 times a year, and most of those involved were co-operative, Mrs Greenman said.

Although the pair's infraction was at the low end of the spectrum, there ''had to be a line''.

If, for instance, Argentine ants got through the cordon, they would ''eat our tuatara alive''. Introduced seeds would ''undo 30 years of community restoration'', while rodents would firstly destroy the giant weta population, before moving on to penguins and kakariki, she said. 

Constable Peter Comer of Wellington Maritime Police said the pair, from Wainuiomata, were angry when police arrived because they felt the rangers had over-reacted.

Police calmed them down by explaining the rules and ''making them see reason'', he said.

No prosecution was considered necessary.

Contact Matt Stewart
Weather, science and environment reporter
Email: matt.stewart@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @smatape

The Dominion Post