A Waikato duck shooter has narrowly avoided prosecution after he used a digger to illegally excavate a pond in an internationally significant wetland.
Things turned from bad to worse when the digger got stuck and became almost fully submerged in the pond near Waitakaruru, at the southern end of the Firth of Thames, in February.
After a six-month investigation, Waikato Regional Council has issued a formal warning to the man, who was intending to create a pond for duck shooting.
The wetland is one of New Zealand's three most important coastal stretches for shorebirds.
"It's not massively prevalent but it has happened a couple of times now," investigations manager Patrick Lynch told NZ Newswire, referring to a similar incident along the coast three years ago.
Rather than trying to remediate the protected area, experts have told the council the best approach will be to let the wetland regenerate on its own.
"With remediation it sometimes means getting in there with diggers. But with wetlands the very best thing is to leave them alone to recover," Mr Lynch said.
He said there was some scope for activity in the wetland but interested parties need to contact authorities before proceeding.
The council will be less inclined to issue a warning for future incidents, he said.