Pilots prosecuted for illegal wildlife zone landings

By The Turangi Chronicle

Tree Trunk Gorge, Kaimanawa Forest Park. Photo / File / Craig Potton
Tree Trunk Gorge, Kaimanawa Forest Park. Photo / File / Craig Potton

The Department of Conservation is cracking down on helicopter pilots landing illegally within specially designated wildlife zones.

Two helicopter pilots have been successfully prosecuted in recent months for landing without permission within Remote Experience Zones, which have been created to provide a naturally quiet, remote and wilderness experience for users.

Taihape-based pilot Mark Tilyard was prosecuted for landing within a zone in Kaimanawa Forest Park on April 14 this year.

Mr Tilyard flew a group of hunters into the Otamateanui camp site in the Rangitikei River catchment, and flew a second group of hunters the following day into the nearby Makomiko camp site.

Both of the sites were well within the Remote Experience Zone.

Mr Tilyard pleaded guilty on December 5 in Taupo District Court to both illegal landings.

He was convicted and fined $4000 for the landings, $1200 costs to DOC, and court costs.

Judge Chris McGuire noted that the offending was serious because it was a deliberate act carried out for commercial gain.

Judge McGuire also said there was huge increasing pressure on wilderness areas throughout the world, and these areas were compromised by helicopter landings in complete contempt and defiance for the purpose of these areas.

If cases continued to come before the courts the level of fines could be expected to increase.

DOC area manager Dave Lumley said it was disappointing to see commercial operators having little regard for the values of a unique area of public conservation land.

"The judge has certainly sent a warning that if helicopter companies get caught where they should not be, they will face stiff penalties," he said.

The case follows a similar DOC prosecution on September 18 of an illegal landing at Ecology Stream camp site within the Rangitikei Remote Experience Zone.

The pilot, Raymond Goodger of Auckland, was found guilty and fined $2500, $1500 costs to DOC, and court costs.

Any pilot wishing to land in a Conservation Area needs to obtain written authority before the flight by contacting the nearest DOC office and making an application for a concession.

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