A Sydney man has admitted smuggling six live scorpions through Christchurch Airport from Australia.
The Ministry for Primary Industries yesterday told the Christchurch District Court, where Iszac William Walters, 23, pleaded guilty to two charges, that the illegal introduction of organisms could have "catastrophic" effects in New Zealand.
The six scorpions were passed on to three men in Queenstown who have been charged and are scheduled to appear in court there on Monday.
Walters had returned from Australia to "face the music", his lawyer, Graeme Riach, told Judge Roy Wade.
Walters pleaded guilty to charges of possessing the six black rock scorpions at Christchurch Airport on February 17 and disposing of them.
Ministry prosecutor Grant Fletcher said the illegal introduction of organisms could have catastrophic effects in New Zealand. It could have major consequences for native species that occupied the same biological niche or competed for food.
"There are no indigenous scorpions in New Zealand, so the importation is strictly controlled and regulated," he said.
An importation had last been allowed in 2011, but scorpions were allowed in only for research or display at zoos.
The black rock species is one of three found in the greater Melbourne area and can grow up to 55 millimetres in length.
It can inflict a painful sting but is unlikely to be fatal for a healthy adult.
The scorpions are not allowed to be removed from Australia.
The ministry received information in April that someone had a scorpion in his bedroom in Queenstown.
When the man was questioned, he said he had found the scorpion in a takeaway packet at Queenstown Primary School.
An extensive search was made at the school, including a search with ultra-violet light under which scorpions glow. No scorpions were found.
Inquiries led to Walters, who was asked about bringing in the scorpions in a 35mm-film canister. He was contacted by letter to provide details about the number and disposal of the scorpions.
Riach asked for Walters to be allowed to return to Sydney pending sentencing, although he would be in Christchurch for the next week and would be interviewed by Community Probation for a pre- sentence report.
Walters will be sentenced in Christchurch on December 11.
- © Fairfax NZ News