The Department of Conservation's new electronic infringement system has contributed significantly to the organisation's goal to protect New Zealand's wilderness within the past year.
Thanks to the Compliance and Law Enforcement (CLE) system, DoC issued about 250 infringement notices and 200 warning letters, with 11 offences referred for prosecutions - of a total 460 reported offences between September 2020 and August 2021.
About $85,000 has been paid in infringement fines; non-payment of fines totalling $30,000 has been referred to the Ministry of Justice for recovery.
DoC acting national compliance manager John Wallwork says an analysis of the first year's results using the new system shows most offences recorded were for breaches of the Marine Mammals Protection Act, Conservation Act and Trade in Endangered Species Act.
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This includes fishing in marine reserves, trading in a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) item, offences on public conservation land, and dogs in national parks.
Some of the more unusual offences that resulted in enforcement action included the illegal removal of a sand dune to allow for a deck, stairs and boardwalk to be built.
In another incident, the partially butchered remains of a protected great white shark was found on a beach by a member of the public. DoC investigated and was able to identify the offender through CCTV footage. A search warrant was executed leading to shark remains being recovered. The offender was issued an infringement and warned under the Wildlife Act 1953.
Wallwork says: "The adoption of the new system has been a significant step forward for DoC's ability to ensure conservation law is enforced – and assist in the long-term goals of protecting the country's wildlife and wilderness."
The new electronic enforcement tool and database allows DoC rangers and staff to record non-compliant activity in the field through a mobile phone app and enables DoC to analyse offending and trends to piece together a national level picture.
The system also captures details of illegal activity reported by members of the public through the department's 0800 DOC HOT response number.