Department of Conservation staff shot at, threatened

  • 21/12/2017
Department of Conservation staff shot at, threatened
Photo credit: DoC

Department of Conservation staff have been shot at, forced to battle drunk tourists and been regularly confronted by angry 1080 poisoning protesters, records show.

And the number of incidents is on the rise.

While there was just one assault in 2006, there have been 30 incidents in 2017 up until December 5, according to a department list obtained by an Official Information Act request.

In one incident in 2007 a bullet hit the passenger door of a car driven by a ranger, shattering its window.

In another, a landowner became unhappy at department-contracted hunters shooting deer on neighbouring public conservation land.

The person then entered the pine forest and fired four shots in the hunters' direction.

Department staff have also contended with regular threats.

This included a caller in 2014 saying they wanted to go into a department office and "blow someone's head off", and a threat made in October this year to kill a local manager and his family.

Health and safety director Harry Maher said the department "abhors" abusive behaviour against its staff.

"It is important our staff are able to get on with their job of protecting conservation areas and native wildlife without fear of being harmed or harassed" he said.

Despite the increase in incidents, Mr Maher said it was important to keep them in perspective against the scale of the department's work.

The department has about 1000 frontline staff interacting co-operatively each day with locals as they manage more than one-third of New Zealand's land area, he said.

He said the reason for an increase in recent incidents could be partly because of an improved culture of reporting them and partly due to the more high profile use of 1080 to kill pests and predators as part of the "Battle for our Birds" programme.

While there had been 12 incidents protesting the use of 1080 in 2017, including two instances in which wheel nuts were loosened on department vehicles, Mr Maher said feedback suggested most New Zealanders strongly supported its use.