Policeman escapes hunting conviction

A Blenheim police officer has been discharged without conviction after admitting a charge of hunting illegally near Ward.

In the Blenheim District Court yesterday, Sergeant Mark Kirkwood admitted hunting without permission on Blue Mountain Station on April 16 and 17 last year.

He initially denied the charge but changed his plea during a defended hearing yesterday.

Judge Tom Broadmore said it was clear Kirkwood did not have permission from the Blue Mountain Station owners to hunt there but he genuinely thought he had permission after speaking to David Buick, who owns a nearby property.

Had he been convicted, Kirkwood could have lost his job, been overlooked for promotion or training courses or found it hard to do other aspects of his job, which would have outweighed the seriousness of the charge, which carried a maximum fine of $500, the judge said. Kirkwood had not shot any animals but strayed on to land he wasn't allowed on and shot at an animal there, Judge Broadmore said.

Mr Buick gave evidence that he spoke to Kirkwood about hunting in the area a week before the incident. He thought Kirkwood was asking about hunting on a nearby Department of Conservation reserve called Isolation Hill Reserve and had been asking for permission to carry a gun across Mr Buick's land, which people had to cross to get to the reserve.

The reserve contained the popular tramping spot Saw Cut Gorge and was divided from Blue Mountain Station by the Waima River, Mr Buick said.

He told Kirkwood to get a map from DOC clearly marking the boundaries between the station and the reserve and not to cross the river on to the station land "or Nicki [station owner Nichola Roberton] would rip his head off, figuratively speaking", he said.

Defence lawyer Mike Hardy-Jones said Kirkwood thought Mr Buick was the station owner and had told him not to park his car on the station but had given him permission to hunt there.

Mr Buick said when Kirkwood returned on April 16 he signed a visitors' book and wrote his name and the time he intended to be away on a whiteboard used to alert hunters.

Nichola Roberton said she had not given Kirkwood permission to hunt on her land and first came across him on a farm track on the station on April 17.

When she told Kirkwood he was poaching, he said he had permission to be there and had shot at a goat. He was polite and left when asked, she said.

Judge Broadmore said that in admitting the charge, Kirkwood accepted he should have made more checks on who owned the land.

The Marlborough Express