Community service for Nelson man who shot, killed kea

A Nelson man has been sentenced to community service, after shooting and killing an endangered kea he claimed was trashing his property.

Robert Aberson pleaded guilty to a charge of unlawfully hunting or killing absolutely protected wildlife.

He admitted shooting at the kea with a .22 air rifle last August, claiming up to eight of the birds had been damaging his property.

The Nelson District Court heard Aberson first shot at three kea with a pellet gun near his home on Takaka Hill. He described them as "aggressive" and "threatening".

When eight kea returned several days later, he shot and killed one of them.

Aberson claimed he was scared for his life when the kea appeared, comparing it to a scene from the Alfred Hitchcock film The Birds.

Aberson faced a fine of between $15,000 and $100,000 and up to two years imprisonment, but the judge instead imposed 200 hours' community service, saying Aberson had "limited financial means ... to pay the fine".

Instead of taking matters into their own hands, anyone else worried about kea behaviour should contact the Department of Conservation or the Kea Conservation Trust, said DoC's Kath Inwood.

"The Kea Conservation Trust has a conflicts resolution co-ordinator based in Nelson/Tasman, and runs a programme to provide property owners with practical help on kea-proofing property and how to avoid kea hanging around," she said.

"In almost all cases, favourable outcomes have been achieved for property owners and kea."

A retired American Airlines pilot who moved to New Zealand seven years ago to farm alpacas, Aberson claimed he wasn't aware of the absolute protection kea enjoy as a threatened species.

However the judge said he must have known he was in trouble because he admitted burning the kea carcass after a visit from DoC rangers.

Kea are a protected species and endangered, with only about 5000 left in the country, according to the DoC.