Police fear poaching fatality

Farm workers and their houses are being caught in the spotlights of poachers and southern police fear someone will be killed unless the illegal practice is stopped.

Constable Steve Winsloe of Winton said police and farmers were taking a collaborative approach to the problem to prevent a potential tragedy.

Landowners had had enough and were working with police to prevent poaching and other rural crime, he said.

"Farmers are getting caught in the spotlights when they are out working after dark. It just takes one poacher to see a glint of an eye that may not be an animal and they pull the trigger" he said.

"The last thing police want is a fatal shooting."

Farm animals were also being shot by poachers carrying out the illegal and potentially deadly activity, Mr Winsloe said.

An illegal spotlighting incident resulted in the death of schoolteacher Rosemary Ives in 2010.

Ms Ives was brushing her teeth at a Department of Conservation campsite near Turangi when she was shot by Andrew Mears, who was illegally spotlight hunting. Mears thought Ms Ives' headlamp was the eyes of a deer.

Last week The Southland Times reported DOC workers feared for their lives when illegal spotlight hunters had them in their sights near Piano Flat in northern Southland.

While some people might believe poaching was a minor offence, the consequences could be drastic, Mr Winsloe said.

Hunting was a privilege and not a right, he said.

Warning signs and surveillance equipment were being set up throughout the district and farmers were joining forces to set up an anti-poaching scheme, under which property owners would grant police authority to issue trespass notices to people on their land without permission.

The notice applied to all properties in the scheme and farmers were joining in increasing numbers, Mr Winsloe said.

Central Otago sub-area supervisor Senior Sergeant Ian Kerrisk said yesterday the poaching scheme had been highlighted as one of the best in the country and farmers had embraced it.

Lillburn Valley farmer Darryl King said poachers thought they had a right to come out to isolated areas and shoot but they were putting lives at risk.

"We get spotlights shining through the windows of the house when these people are out and about," he said.

"It's a real scare when it happens."

Farmers were also finding stock shot and killed on their property or the blood on the ground where an animal had been killed, he said.

"In the old days, we could police this kind of thing by ourselves but these days you don't know who you are going to run into," Mr King said. Poaching was not just an issue confined to western Southland, it was a concern for rural people across the province, he said.

Mr Winsloe said a "black market" trade in venison could be contributing to the poaching.

Police were investigating. It was illegal to supply or sell venison shot illegally.

Anyone who saw people spotlighting and illegally hunting should call police and try get details of any vehicles, he said.

People convicted of poaching could face seizure of vehicles, firearms, firearms licences and any other items relating to the activity of unlawful hunting.

A permit was needed to hunt on DOC land and permission was needed from the landowner to hunt on private property. 

The Southland Times