Swan slaughter in Tauranga Harbour

By Kiri Gillespie

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Footage of swans slaughtered at sea by people who appear to be aiming for them in a high-speed jetboat in Tauranga Harbour has ignited disgust and outrage from hunters and animal lovers alike.

Two adults and two children were onboard the jetboat, which can be seen speeding through the harbour on Boxing Day, and running over seven black swans in the process. Some can be seen left hurt and struggling in the boat's wake afterward.

The clip, which was shown on Campbell Live on Tuesday, showed the boaties laughing and checking if the camera was recording. It is unknown how many swans were killed.

Tauranga Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre director and veterinarian Liza Schneider told the Bay of Plenty Times they had treated an increasing number of injured black swans during summer but she could not confirm how many were from boat trauma.

Dr Schneider described the jetboat footage as "soul-destroying".

"Because you work so hard to give animals the best care and teach people to respect life, and to see people behave so disgustingly ...

it's heartbreaking," she said.

"Animals feel pain. We can quantify that. We know that's for certain."

She said she hoped coverage of the incident would serve as a wake-up to society to be more aware of animal cruelty incidents and referred to the link between such crimes and domestic violence.

"I think it's really important that these people are brought to task, and held accountable and face the ramifications of their disgusting behaviour," Dr Schneider said.

Police are now investigating.

Jetboating New Zealand (JBNZ) president Garth McMaster was unable to confirm if the people in the clip were members.

"If it turns out they are, that person will be dealt with to the fullest extent possible," Mr McMaster said.

JBNZ and its national executive were shocked, disgusted and did not condone the actions of the jetboat driver. "JBNZ represents more boaters than any other organisation in New Zealand and is extremely concerned for the damage caused to all boaters by this revelation. The organisation's own website web board, which is used by members and non-members alike, is unanimous in its disgust of the actions of this unknown jetboater," he said.

In late May, Fish and Game New Zealand traditionally hold a swan hunt, where black swans in Tauranga Harbour are rounded up and killed.

The annual event attracted a major backlash last year but officials defended it, referring to complaints from harbourside property owners and farms whose crops were eaten, and airport officials concerned at potential threats to air traffic.

However, Fish and Game chief executive Bryce Johnson told Campbell Live the jetboat incident was "absolutely disgusting" and no hunter could sanction such a thing.

"We have very strong ethical approaches to how we hunt game birds in New Zealand, and these idiots are just absolutely abusing the whole welfare issue about game birds and wildlife in general," Mr Johnson said.

Black swans are a protected species outside of hunting season.

The clip was circulated by someone disgruntled with the jetboat driver. The identity of the driver remains unknown.

The Tauranga Harbourmaster or SPCA could not be reached for comment yesterday.


Do you have more information about this incident? Give us a call, anonymously if you prefer, on the news tips line 0800 253 253.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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