Two Ngongotaha men have been sentenced to a total of 460 hours' community work for stealing ponga from public conservation land.

Tyson Brake, 26, and Bruce Hector McCollum, 39, pleaded guilty to the theft of 54 ponga from the Rotoehu Conservation Area on March 10.

They were caught in the act by Department of Conservation (DoC) compliance officers who seized the logs along with a trailer and chainsaw being used as part of the illegal activity. McCollum also pleaded guilty to a charge of giving false details to the compliance officers.

In the Rotorua District Court today, Brake was sentenced to 200 hours of community work and his chainsaw was confiscated. McCollum was sentenced to 260 hours of community work.


Judge Noel Cocurullo said he wanted their sentencing to be a warning to others who did not realise the seriousness of these types of crimes.

"If members of the public want to act this way they could face going to jail, it is that serious," Judge Cocurullo said.

In a written statement, DoC solicitor Mike Bodie said the sentencing illustrated how DoC was working with the wider community to address illegal activity and it sent a clear message that DoC would prosecute.

"Removal of native vegetation impacts on the conservation values of public conservation land. Vegetation has important ecological value and any attempts to remove it will be taken seriously."

The maximum sentence for the offence is two years' imprisonment and a $100,000 fine, and offenders risk forfeiture of vehicles, trailers and equipment. DoC urges anyone who sees suspicious activity around local reserves or conservation areas to immediately call the toll free number 0800 DOCHOT (362 468).