Hunter's shot in the dark scares pest control volunteer

The pest control worker was on the other side of Kaiuma Bay, working in the dark.
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The pest control worker was on the other side of Kaiuma Bay, working in the dark.

A man's shot in the dark at a possum has landed him in court as a neighbour, working late in the bush, claims he was nearly hit. 

Peter Graham MacKenzie was at a friend's house near Havelock, about 30 kilometres west of Picton, on the night of November 15 last year.

They were drinking alcohol on the balcony overlooking Kaiuma Bay when they saw a possum on the property about 10pm.

The police summary of facts said MacKenzie grabbed his 7mm .08 rifle and fired five rounds.

A neighbour was in the bush on the opposite side of the bay, about 400 metres from MacKenzie, when he heard the high-powered rifle go off.

MacKenzie was charged with discharging a firearm near a dwelling and recklessly discharging a firearm.

He admitted the first charge at the Blenheim District Court on Monday and the other charge was withdrawn by police.

The summary said the neighbour was using a spotlight to do pest control near his property.

The gunfire frightened him and the man said the rounds hit the ground about 10 metres away from where he was standing.

He then saw a spotlight being shone in his direction across the bay, so he moved further around the bay, away from his house.

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The man heard two further shots, again hitting the ground within 10 metres of where he was standing, he told police.

He was so frightened he went to a neighbour's house and called police.

When spoken to by police, MacKenzie said he was shooting at possums on his friend's property and the rounds landed about 50 metres away, within the property boundary.

He had no idea there was someone across the bay, and had no intention of firing near them, he said.

MacKenzie's lawyer said he was not drunk at the time, and had only had a few beers, so alcohol was not an issue for him.

He was a hunter and carried a rifle in his truck.

MacKenzie maintained his comment that he was not shooting beyond his friend's section, his lawyer said.

The sound of the bullets might have travelled over the still water and sounded closer than they were, he said.

But MacKenzie accepted he should have been more careful when shooting.

Police wanted to destroy the rifle, worth $3000.

But Judge Christopher Tuohy said it was worth more than any fine he would give the man, and the issue of whether MacKenzie was fit to hold a gun licence could be reviewed by police after his sentencing anyway.

"Having a firearm is not a right, it's a privilege," Tuohy said.

MacKenzie was convicted and fined $800.

 - The Marlborough Express

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