By Letitia Atkinson
The four Waikato people accused of illegally poaching deer from farms in Pyes Pa, Te Puke, Oropi and Rotorua have been remanded on bail without plea.
Matamata residents Storm Panapa, 17, Maunganui Charlie Panapa, 24, Bradley Duncan McKenzie, 19, and Scott Stephen Darroch, 18, appeared in the Tauranga Registrar’s Court yesterday jointly charged with thefts of animals.
The group were remanded on bail and are due to appear back in court on April 15.
A 16-year-old youth is being dealt with by Youth Aid in Matamata.
The charges stem from an illegal poaching ring operating across properties in Pyes Pa, Te Matai Road, Oropi and Rotorua between January and December last year.
The accused were arrested last week following police raids in Matamata.
During the raids on March 19, police seized 11 firearms, including three .270 high-powered hunting rifles, a .303 rifle, a .243 high-calibre rifle and two shotguns.
Police also seized three vehicles during the raids.
The officer in charge of the investigation, Constable Tim Bonnar says more than 130 rusa, red and fallow deer, valued from $700 to $4500 each, were stolen as part of the poaching operation.
“We treat poaching as a very serious matter, particularly when it involves people running around on public farms with high-calibre weapons.”
Police urge the public to remain vigilant.
People are asked to report suspicious activity to their local police station or alternatively, they can leave information anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.