by Bud Jones and Tony Orman
A Wairarapa land owner hit by deer poachers has come to the conclusion that police are ”grossly failing” in deciding not to prosecute offenders. Bud Jones, who has received national recognition for his conservation efforts in creating wetlands to the west of Eketahuna, described his reactions to police lethargy and inaction over not taking the poachers to court, as very mixed.
The police response to apprehend the poachers was good but Bud is dismayed about lack of prosecution. He is also disappointed at the police indifference and lack of firm action. He is even more incensed about the theft and the cruelty inflicted on his deer.
Four poachers break in
On the evening of January 8, 2019, four shooters armed with deer rifles entered his property by breaching an 8 foot high deer proof perimeter fencing, with the intent to kill as many of my fallow deer as possible, presumably for target practice.
Neighbours heard roughly 25 to 30 shots, and helped the farm manager investigate. They took up viewing positions from high points. The intruders were accosted and surrounded and detained, while the farm manager rang police on 111.
The police arrive but don’t follow up
Within minutes police squad cars arrived seemingly fully prepared for an armed offenders event with tasers and an assault rifle. At least two officers emerged with side arm pistols drawn at the ready.
“The police interviewed the offenders and one shooter admitted having been there two weeks previously to scout out the situation for the massacre day,” said Bud Jones. “Firearms licences were noted and identification details were taken from all of the men who were detained. But inexplicably the police then vacated the scene without taking a single statement or confiscating firearms and vehicles.”
In the followed two months nothing happened, but finally there was a weak decision not to prosecute at the time of the Christchurch tragedy. However, subsequently there were statements and interviews made by shooters and eye witnesses to the police.
The carnage was sickening. “Eight female deer were killed by rifle fire. All were milking with fawns at foot and all fawns have died subsequently, lacking mother’s milk”.
The culprits and their illegal actions
One shooter did not have a firearms licence and he was the “designated musterer” with the job of pushing animals back into shooter positions.
Another man from Carterton was a guide for his two sons and admitted having poached there many times before for deer and Canada geese. He claimed not to have entered the property on January 8 but did shoot a deer running the fence line. The Carterton poacher appeared to be the “ring leader” of the group.
“The getaway van and incoming transport was parked on a paddock near my boundary fence,” said Bud Jones. “No shooter has denied entering the property or killing my deer, yet since, despite admissions and eyewitness accounts, police have decided not to prosecute the alleged offenders, but considering only issuing infringement notices and reviews of their firearms licences with possible cancellations. But now three months later nothing has happened in that direction.”
Police inaction not justified
Bud Jones said that in the light of the Christchurch terrorist tragedy events in mid-March, the only conclusion over the police handling, was one of gross failure after such a lengthy gap of not prosecuting.
“Surely police need to be firm in applying the fullest extent of the law and make an example of these offenders, especially as the Christchurch massacre shows that police are not soft on firearms crime,” he said.
Fishing and Outdoors magazine asked other hunters for their opinion. Hunting and fishing author, Tony Orman, said police had strong powers under the Wild Animal Control Act and the offenders, if proved guilty in court, should have the rifles and vehicles used confiscated, firearm licences cancelled and convictions imposed.
The Eketahuna failure by police rekindled memories of two off duty police officers in 2016 caught poaching deer by spotlighting but were let off. Farmers were angry at police inaction and said charges should have been laid under the Wild Animal Control Act.
Tony Orman also observed that “If police want respect, and show they have both integrity and credibility, they need to front up.”
The need for tougher action
Judges needed to impose stronger fines and sentences, unlike a recent case of illegal possession of firearms where the sentence was a “meek and timid” 80 days community service.
In the case of the Eketahuna poaching, it seemed all the admissions and evidence pointed to a straight forward prosecution.
In the U.S., poachers get fined several thousand dollars, banned from hunting for years and have to do community work.
The softly, softly approach at Eketahuna should have authorities hanging their head in shame. It needs central police, especially Police Association spokesman Chris Cahill, to call for a full enquiry.