Dog collars land hunter in court

A pig hunter has been fined for using illegal dog-tracking collars which can interfere with radio frequencies used by emergency services.

Graham Scarfe, 31, pleaded guilty to transmitting radio waves without a radio licence when he appeared in the Hastings District Court today.

Scarfe was fined $1200 for using Garmin tracking equipment, which the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment banned from being imported in 2012.

Prosecutor Jessica Blythe said the maximum penalty of $30,000 reflected the serious consequences of disrupting frequencies used by emergency services in places without cellphone reception.

The forestry industry, logging companies, railways, electricity networks and local authority utilities also used the frequencies which the public were banned from using.

Blythe said the dog-tracking collars produced a signal that wiped out conversation for as long as 20 seconds, increasing the risk of miscommunication.

This was especially dangerous for forestry workers, in an industry already troubled with a high death toll, Blythe said.

Police found two Garmin Astro 220 GPS units and three Garmin DC 30 dog collars at a rural Hastings property when investigating a stolen car in August last year.

Scarfe's lawyer, Peter Austin, said his client had bought the car from a workmate not knowing it was stolen. The collars were bequeathed to Scarfe.

Austin said Scarfe lacked awareness of the laws banning the use of Garmin tracking devices.

Garmin dog-tracking devices are manufactured in the United States to be used on frequencies in the 150 megahertz range. These frequencies are not available for public use in New Zealand.

Other manufacturers produce dog-tracking devices that can be used.

Scarfe told police he "may have known" that the collars were illegal. Downloaded GPS data showed that one or both collars were used numerous times in June and July last year.

Scarfe told Judge Richard Watson he used the collars to follow the dogs while pig hunting.

Judge Watson acknowledged it was possible some hunters did not know that the Garmin devices were illegal.

Austin said the New Zealand Pig Hunting Association was trying to inform the public which collars could be used and which could not.

Judge Watson ordered the destruction or the disposal of the tracking devices.