Arrest warrants have been issued for two trout poachers who failed to turn up to court for sentencing.

Thomas Tawha, 41, of Kawerau and David Pake Leef, 42, of Te Teko, were convicted in November of several poaching related charges. They were due to be sentenced by Judge James Weir in the Rotorua District Court today but failed to appear.

They had been found guilty of poaching as many as 60 trout from an unnamed tributary of Lake Rotoiti in June and July last year.

Tawha was convicted on five charges while Leef was convicted of three. The charges included disturbing the spawning ground of rainbow trout, possession of a net suitable for sport fishing while in the vicinity of the tributary and taking rainbow trout from the stream.


The stream is closed to fishing at all times of the year as it is a known spawning area for trout.

At a previous court hearing the two men had refused to recognise the court's authority to deal with them and refused to plead to the charges but a judge entered not guilty pleas on their behalf.

They were later found guilty of the charges. During that hearing they refused to accept documents handed to them by the Fish & Game prosecutor, tossing them on the floor.

Tawha argued the pair were entitled to take trout because they were tangata whenua and had customary rights.

Judge Weir had urged the pair to seek proper legal representation before today's sentencing, where they faced a maximum imprisonment of two years, a $100,000 fine or both, on each of the charges.

Today, Judge Weir issued warrants for the men's arrest and ordered they be held in custody until he returned to Rotorua in about two weeks.