The Department of Conservation is increasingly resorting to media releases claiming its field workers are being threatened and harassed by 1080 opponents. Newshub/TV3 had another such item last Friday evening. But it seems that these claims are accepted at face value by reporters and no investigation of their accuracy gets done.
Anti-1080 campaigner Carol Sawyer says an Official Information Act response reveals false claims from DoC:
Can we expect our Government agencies like the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DoC) to tell us the truth? Can we at least expect them NOT to blatantly and shamelessly lie?
Well apparently, no.
Over the past year, there have been increasing claims in the media from people like Lou Sanson, Director-General of the DoC and Nicola Toki, DoC’s ‘Threatened Species Ambassador’, that ‘anti-1080 activists are dangerously out of control’, ‘have gone feral’ and even ‘are repeatedly making death threats to DoC staff’.
On 31 August this year, we exposed the truth about these lies. We reported the response to an Official Information Act to the New Zealand Police, which asked ‘exactly HOW MANY threats of violence towards DoC staff had been recorded from so-called ‘anti-1080 activists in the past 2 years?’ and perhaps more importantly, ‘how many of these were being upheld?
The answer, back then, was six. Between March 2016 and March 2018 there were a total of only six reports of threats to NZ Police, of which, ZERO were being progressed to prosecution. Nil prosecutions. Surprise, surprise!
So since then, from March up to October 2018, how many MORE threats to DoC do you think have been reported to the Police? After all, there was (according to TVNZ in Sept) a “sharp rise in threats to DoC staff”.
Numerous media articles have attempted to alarm the public about the ‘dangers’ of ‘anti-1080 activists’. Then there was the commencement of a costly contract with the private security firm, Thompson and Clark (April 2018). Journalists like Tom O’Connor writing opinion pieces with headlines like ‘ Anti-1080 protesters’ threats to human life inexcusable’…..
Yes, that’s right, since March 2018 there has been an ‘explosion’ of the numbers of threats to….um, the same, on average, as the previous two years.
Whether any of these 3 alleged threats will progress to a prosecution, remains to be seen. But if previously reported incidents are anything to go by (e.g. a threatening phone call, and a note left on a DoC vehicle) we doubt it very much.
We need to call out DoC about their constant and tiresome Fake News. And we need to make the media accountable for perpetuating their lies [there is a similar need in regard to the Cr David Scott case — Eds]. We need to ask for more evidence whenever DoC make a claim; they are simply untrustworthy.
Some examples of recent Fake News articles below.
“Southern police have also revealed they are investigating several threats made last year to sabotage 1080 operations, including one involving the setting of man traps. Department of Conservation (Doc) operations director southern South Island Aaron Fleming said in recent months there had been an increase in threats and harassment to Doc staff and contractors nationwide, including eight in Otago and Southland.” (Otago Daily Times, 6 October 2018)
“There are fears for the safety of conservation workers and contractors after recent attacks on their vehicles. In three instances wheel nuts on the vehicles were loosened in acts believed to be connected to protests over the Conservation Department’s use of 1080 poison for pest management. In the most serious case a contractor avoided injury when a wheel came off while he was driving, after its nuts had been loosened. DOC director-general Lou Sanson said toxic bait had been put in a staff letterbox and he had also seen other threatening posts on Facebook recently.” (Radio NZ, 29 September 2017)
“DOC appalled at latest 1080 threats to staff: The Department of Conservation (DOC) confirms that it has asked New Zealand Police to investigate after receiving a second threatening letter from an anti-1080 protestor in Taranaki. The aggressive letter intensifies threats against DOC staff and claims more sika deer will be released unless DOC stops its use of 1080 to control predators.” (Scoop, 5 December 2017)
“Sharp rise in threats to DOC as anti 1080 protesters hold mass demonstrations” TVNZ One News, September 2018
DoC said the intelligence gathering was necessary because of threats made by anti-1080 activists who in some cases had threatened to shoot down helicopters. “They’ve threatened to kill our staff and their families, we’ve had physical confrontation, and we’ve had instances of tampering with vehicles, loosening wheel nuts. “So we needed a specialist security company to help us with that because we just don’t have the resources or expertise,” Mr Maher said. Threats are collated and assessed by Thompson and Clark as to whether they could likely be carried out. If the risk is high they are forwarded onto police. (Radio New Zealand Checkpoint: DOC Using Thompson and Clarke to monitor anti-1080 activists, 23 April 2018)
Department of Conservation staff are facing a torrent of online threats and abuse following a recent spike in anti-1080 protest This is having a consequence for frontline DOC staff, Mrs Toki said incidents of threats and abuse in August were significantly higher than usual. “We had eight incidents in just one month alone where staff were physically confronted, abused or harassed and then we had seven abusive phone calls and emails” She said in addition to that there were countless harassment threats and abuse via social media which were followed up with Netsafe and the police. (Radio New Zealand, 18 September 2018)