Landowners take action against armed criminals

By Chris Steel

1 comment

Frustrated farmers are staking out their properties to protect their livestock and catch armed poachers who are treating their land as a free-for-all hunting spot.

Landowners have been keeping vigil, watching for suspicious vehicles and taking down licence plate numbers on Work Rd, south of Katikati.

Geoff and Karen Turner, owners of Puriri Park deer farm at the top of Work Rd, suspect five fallow deer, a red stag and a red hind missing from their 182-hectare property in the past five months have been stolen by poachers.

Mr Turner calculated there were 15 homes in a 2km radius near the top of Work Rd.

"It's getting dangerous for residents as there are a lot of houses up here now and some are feeling unsafe on their own properties.

Another Work Rd resident said her family had placed padlocks on their gates in the past six months after poaching activity in the area.

The Turners say poaching on properties has been going on for months. They say seven poachers have been caught in the past 12 months and other people have been spoken to.

In the latest incident, on May 20, two men aged 20 and 23, found near the Turner property were convicted of breaching the Wild Animal Control Act and fined $200 each.

Mrs Turner said that shortly before 10 o'clock that night she got a text from a neighbour saying a 4x4 that was on their list of suspicious vehicles had driven up the road and come back down.

"I raced out to where I was told the offenders had been dropped off [in a patch of bush near the entrance to their property]," Mrs Turner said.

"I yelled out to them: 'Show yourself or I'll call the police'."

She knew they were hiding and waited for them to do something.

Her husband was in the deer race checking a water pipe 120m away and, being alerted by Mrs Turner, joined her to wait for the poachers.

The couple waited and watched until the early hours of Monday.

Mrs Turner thought she saw a torch light and her husband thought he heard a cough from where the poachers were hiding in bush on their property.

When the 4x4 returned at 2am and drove back down the road 30 seconds later without picking up the poachers, the couple followed the vehicle and were on the phone continuously with the police, until it pulled over by a packhouse at the bottom of the road near the state highway.

Three police vehicles arrived soon after and the driver was spoken to. Two officers went with the man back up Work Rd.

Police found the two men at 3am, and found a firearm and spotlight.

The men were arrested.

On a previous occasion, one of three farmed fallow deer that had been grazing in the deer race on the property was stolen.

Poachers have been seen on the road frequently and have even entered the farm and shot farmed deer inside the fencing.

The Turners say there has been trouble with poachers in the past and the police have dealt with the culprits after locals bailed them up.

A red stag with a good set of antlers was shot in the neighbour's deer paddock on Waitangi weekend.

The poachers took the head, hind legs and back steaks and left the carcase to waste.

"You don't get stags like that wild, in the Kaimais. These people call themselves hunters. They're just common thieves," Mrs Turner said.

All the animals the poachers had taken were too much to feed just friends and family and she wondered if they were selling the meat.

The Turners say that because the top part of the road has bush along the roadside that is not fenced, people think it is Department of Conservation land, when in fact it is privately owned, with signage that says this.

"There are plenty of places for hunters to get into the bush, like Lindemann Rd, Hot Springs Rd, Thompson's Track etc. They need to get a permit and go hunting legitimately," Mr Turner said.

"Instead of taking the easy road, get out into the thousands of acres of bush, develop some hunting skills and actually work for your trophy."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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