A Tauranga GP on a hunting trip fired a crossbow at a noisy possum - but the lethal bolt struck a tree just 3m from sleeping children at a campsite.
Nigel Alistair Kim, 50, appeared in Tauranga District Court yesterday and pleaded guilty to a charge of knowingly discharging a crossbow in a conservation area in breach of a hunting permit.
Despite the guilty plea, the doctor is fighting to avoid a conviction.
The prosecuting lawyer says the incident could have ended in tragedy.
The case bears similarities to that of 25-year-old teacher Rose Ives, who was fatally shot by hunter Andrew Mears while camping with her partner in Kaimanawa Forest Park near Turangi in 2010.<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />
Mears was illegally spotlighting for animals at the time.
The Department of Conservation case against Kim relates to an incident in August last year, when he and his son were on an overnight deer-hunting trip in the Kaimai-Mamaku Forest Park.
Three weeks earlier, Kim obtained a hunting permit which included a number of conditions including a ban on spotlighting and hunting wild animals during darkness.
Kim and his son camped at the park's Hurunui Hut overnight on August 20 and a group of 20 children and two parents on a mountain safety training exercise also camped in tents at the site.
About 10pm on August 20, Kim left the hut with a high-powered crossbow and torch and went with his son to search for a noisy possum to try and kill it.
About 15m from the hut, he fired the crossbow in the possum's direction but missed and the bolt embedded in a tree trunk 3m from a tent where children were sleeping.
The following morning one of the children's parents saw Kim's bolt stuck in the tree trunk and complained to Tauranga police and the Department of Conservation.
When Kim attended an interview at the local DOC office on September 9, he admitted what happened, apologised, and said he had destroyed the crossbow.
He has not previously appeared before the court.
His lawyer, Tony Balme, told Judge David McKegg he understood the department was seeking a financial penalty but his client was seeking to be discharged without conviction.
Kim's letter of apology and explanation were given to the judge, who asked Mr Balme to file written submissions in support of his request.
The judge did not enter a conviction and remanded Kim at large and requested he return to court on May 24 when the discharge application will be heard.
Kim will be overseas from April 4 to May 4, the court was told.
He refused to discuss the matter outside court.
Kim is listed as one of the general practitioners at Bethlehem Family Doctors.
Mike Bodie, the lawyer representing DOC, said the case was taken because this incident was a matter of public safety and could well have resulted in tragic consequences.
"DOC is not looking for a pound of flesh but given the circumstances a monetary penalty is appropriate," he said.
The charge attracts a prison sentence of up to one year or a fine not exceeding $10,000.