The Department of Conservation (DOC) has issued more than 200 infringement notices and taken 11 prosecutions since it launched its new electronic Compliance and Law Enforcement (CLE) system in late 2020.
DOC’s acting National Compliance Manager, John Wallwork says analysis of the first year’s results using the new system shows the majority of offences were for breaches of the Marine Mammals Protection Act, Conservation Act and Trade in Endangered Species Act.
This has included 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. In total, 460 offences were reported between September 2020 and August 2021.
“Some of the more unusual offences which resulted in enforcement action included the illegal removal of a sand dune to allow for a deck, stairs and boardwalk to be built,” said Mr Wallwork.
“In another incident the partially butchered remains of a protected Great White Shark were found on beach by a member of the public. Following a DOC investigation and identification of 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.”
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 that links directly to a central repository.
“This centralised incident recording system gives DOC the ability to assess and respond deliberately, proportionately, and quickly to any non-compliance incidents and enables DOC to analyse offending and trends to piece together a national level picture,” he says.
Incidents recorded by DOC staff using the new system are triaged by DOC’s National Compliance Team for potential progression to investigation and subsequent enforcement action.
Mr Wallwork says the adoption of the new enforcement 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.
Since the system was instigated in September 2020, approximately 250 infringement notices and 200 warning letters have been issued with 11 offences referred for prosecution. Around $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. Infringement notices and warning letters can also be issued directly from the electronic system.
The system also captures details of illegal activity reported by members of the public through the department’s 0800 DOC HOT response number, allowing DOC to follow up and investigate.
Non-compliant activity can be reported to 0800 DOC HOT.