Game bird hunters caught without either a firearms or hunting licence during the upcoming shooting season will face the full brunt of the law, the Northland Fish and Game Council has warned.

The warning follows the conviction of an Aucklander in the Whangārei District Court on charges relating to using a firearm without a licence and hunting or killing game birds in Kaiwaka without a licence.

Digger Fletcher, 40, of Warkworth, earlier pleaded guilty to a charge of possession of a firearm without a licence, one of hunting or killing birds without a licence and another of obstructing council rangers.

Fletcher killed a swan, a paradise duck and a mallard duck.


He appeared in court yesterday and was sentenced to six months' community detention and ordered to observe a curfew from 7pm to 7am everyday.

It was revealed in court that he had two previous convictions in 2011 for unlawful possession of a firearm.

Council manager Rudi Hoetjes said Fletcher's sentence sent a clear message to hunters and the wider public that those who contravene the Conservation, Wildlife and Firearms Acts would be dealt with accordingly.

He is urging those wishing to participate in the game bird hunting season in Northland that will run from May 4 through to August 25 to buy their hunting licence, make sure they held a firearms licence, and to be aware of their obligations under the law.

"It's up to individual hunters to treat the game with respect. There are rules in place they have to obey and if they are caught breaking those rules, they should expect the law to come down on them."

Northland Fish and Game Council manager Rudi Hoetjes wants hunters to comply with all the rules this upcoming hunting season. Photo/Imran Ali
Northland Fish and Game Council manager Rudi Hoetjes wants hunters to comply with all the rules this upcoming hunting season. Photo/Imran Ali

On May 5, last year, two voluntary rangers patrolling in the Kaiwaka area noticed a utility vehicle parked on the roadside adjacent to a pond.

They found Fletcher and his 14-year-old son both wearing camouflaged paint and hunting clothes and the boy in possession of a semi-automatic shotgun.

Fletcher admitted he did not have a duck shooting licence and when told by the rangers they were obliged to seize his firearm, he replied: "That's not going to happen".


He refused to hand over two shotguns, placed the firearms into the vehicle and drove away.

His son was formally warned.

Judge Greg Davis repeated an earlier ruling by the Court of Appeal that firearms were an "anathema" to society if they landed in the wrong hands.

He mentioned the shootings in Christchurch and at Mt Tiger Rd in Whangarei as examples of the dangers of lethal weapons.

"What's the message you are sending to your son? That it's okay to ignore the law? Any sentence I impose on you must hold you accountable for your actions."

Judge Davis also ordered Fletcher to pay $800 towards the council's legal fees and the firearms and ammunition to be destroyed.

There are 1900 game licence holders in Northland and about 35,000 throughout New Zealand.

Grey/mallard duck and any hybrid of that species, NZ shoveler duck, paradise shelduck, black swan, pukeko, California and brown quail, and cock pheasant are the birds that can be hunted in Northland during the open season.

Species that are protected and cannot be hunted are brown and grey teal, and scaup.

The Northland Fish and Game Region extends north from a line midway to a point between the North Head and South Head of the Kaipara Harbour, then runs due east to a point just North of Wellsford and then a line running northeast to cross the coastline about 4.6km north of Te Arai Point.

Rules of the game:
* Always ask permission to hunt on private land
• Check whether a hunting permit is needed on public land
• Carry a current game bird hunting licence and comply with the relevant bag limits and conditions of hunting.
• Select appropriate shot size for the target.
• Be able to distinguish what species may be lawfully hunted from protected ones.
• Promote ethical hunting of gamebirds. If you don't want to eat them, don't shoot them.