Anyone who picks up a shotgun this shooting season without the requisite firearms and hunting licences will face the full force of the law.
That was the warning from the Northland Fish and Game Council last week following the conviction of a 40-year-old Warkworth man in the Whangarei District Court. Digger Fletcher had pleaded guilty to charges of possessing a firearm without a licence, hunting or killing birds without a licence and obstructing council rangers.
He had killed a swan, a mallard and a paradise duck.
Fletcher, who had two previous convictions (in 2011) for unlawful possession of a firearm, was sentenced to six months' community detention, including a curfew from 7pm to 7am.
Fish and Game Council manager Rudi Hoetjes said the sentence sent a clear message to hunters, and the wider public, that those who contravened the Conservation, Wildlife and Firearms Acts would be dealt with accordingly.
He was urging those wishing to participate in the game bird hunting season in Northland, from May 4 to August 25, to buy a 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," he said.
Meanwhile the court heard that 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 camouflage 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, put them in 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, referring to 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," he said.
Judge Davis also ordered Fletcher to pay $800 towards the council's legal fees, and that the firearms and ammunition be destroyed.