DOC probes allegations
The Department of Conservation is investigating the actions of its Southland boss and several staff after one of its contracted hunters admitted a firearms offence while on the job.
The investigation centres on allegations by the whistleblower, longtime Te Anau deer hunter Dave Wilson, that he was victimised by DOC staff after he reported a fellow contract hunter for unsafe handling of firearms.
He said he felt compelled to report the hunter, 21-year-old Jordan Munn, to police following a hunting trip on Secretary Island in February because DOC bosses had failed to act appropriately on his concerns and he had feared for the public's safety.
In an email to DOC director general Lou Sanson last month, Mr Wilson outlines his concerns about the "serious firearm safety handling issues" displayed by Mr Munn and the "ongoing victimisation" he had received as a result of speaking out.
Jordan Munn is the nephew of DOC Southland boss Allan Munn, whose title is director of conservation services for the southern South Island region.
Mr Wilson's email claims that certain members of DOC Te Anau, the Secretary Island hunting crew and the Munn family worked hard to discredit him during the process of charges being laid against Jordan Munn.
"This was a very stressful time for us all," says Mr Wilson, a professional hunter and guide of more than 16 years who co-owns the Hunt South business with wife Ali.
Speaking this week, Mr Wilson said Jordan Munn had on more than one occasion left his rifle loaded outside his Deep Cove accommodation in view of the public during the Secretary Island hunting trip.
Jordan Munn subsequently admitted a charge of leaving a loaded firearm unattended and, as a first offender, he completed a police diversion programme and did not receive a conviction.
Letters sent to Mr Wilson by the police and the then-Department of Labour (now Worksafe NZ) after it had investigated his concerns, commended him for speaking out about the safety issues and said he had potentially saved a life.
The Labour Department letter says Mr Wilson's concerns appear to have been addressed by the individuals concerned and DOC.
But Mr Wilson claims that in November, several months after Jordan Munn had admitted the firearms charge, Allan Munn told him he was taking his Murihiku hunting work away from him and he would never hunt for DOC in the South Island again.
When this was put to Allan Munn by The Southland Times, he acknowledged he had told Mr Wilson he was no longer suitable as a contractor for DOC in the southern South Island area where he was director.
"There's a whole bunch of reasons for that, [but] nothing to do with what you are reporting on."
Mr Wilson said Jordan Munn had done more hunting work for DOC since admitting the firearms charge.
This was confirmed by Allan Munn but, having worked for DOC for just three months, he said he had nothing to do with hiring his nephew.
Allan Munn also said there was "no way" he discredited Mr Wilson during the process of charges being laid against his nephew, because he was not working for DOC at that time.
He declined to comment further while the matter was under investigation, saying it was a long and complex issue and Mr Wilson had made allegations against several DOC staff, including himself.
Jordan Munn, when contacted this week, said he had been charged with only the one offence of leaving a loaded firearm unattended, despite Mr Wilson making numerous other allegations about him.
Jordan Munn said he could not comment further while DOC was investigating.
DOC spokesman Nick Hirst confirmed an investigation had been launched, with external advisers asked to look into the allegations.
Interviews with the parties involved began before Christmas and DOC expected the external review to be completed in the next few weeks.
"Some of the claims made by Mr Wilson are in dispute and, to ensure what we say is accurate and fair to all parties, DOC will not be commenting further until the review is complete."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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