By Mikaela Collins
A whopping 89 per cent of convictions for illegal hunting or possession of kukupa were for offences occurring in Northland.
Statistics released to the Northern Advocate by the Department of Conservation (DOC) showed there had been 56 convictions for the illegal hunting and possession of the endangered wood pigeon nationally since DOC was established in 1987. However, 50 of these - 89 per cent - were for offences in Northland.
The last conviction was in 2007 but a DOC spokeswoman said reports from the public and evidence of illegal hunting indicated the crime was still a problem for the region.
She said the lack of convictions for kukupa offences (also known as kereru) in Northland was due to a number of factors, including collecting sufficient evidence.
"For example, the apprehension of individuals that led to the most recent convictions in Northland occurred deep in remote forests with the assistance of armed police and were complex operations involving considerable resources."
Northland Conservation Board chairman Mita Harris said conviction was the "last resort" and encouraged hapu and iwi to place rahui on forests to prevent the crime from happening.
"I mean, it's my position law and enforcement is the last resort. It's lore versus law. Put rahui in place, let's get it known the numbers aren't as great as they once were. I mean people used to go in the forest and bring back four birds - you just don't do that any more," he said.
"Hapu need to take it upon themselves look at what they've got in there rohe " whether it be kukupa or kiwi and decide on these things. It's tino rangatiratanga, self-determination."
The DOC spokeswoman said they relied on reports of illegal hunting, and also monitored areas where hunting was known to take place.
Forest areas where poaching had occurred included Reatea, Omahuta, Puketi, Russell, Waipoua, Tutumoe, Herekino and Utukura. She said, in the past three years, DOC compliance rangers responded with police on at least two occasions where information was received from the public. One was in 2013, in the Kaikohe region, and the other in 2014, in the Kaitaia area.
"On both these occasions, which involved travel to remote locations, the alleged offenders had already moved on.
"People should report any incidents of illegal wildlife hunting to the DOC emergency hotline 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468). Any specific information in relation to the location of the alleged offending or identity of the offenders is useful."
Ngapuhi runanga chairman Sonny Tau will appear in Invercargill District Court next month facing charges of hunting/killing kukupa and possessing the protected birds, after he was allegedly found with kukupa at Invercargill Airport on June 16.
The last two men convicted for kukupa offences were jailed in 2008 for six weeks. Michael Stanley Sampson, then 36, and Murray William Ogle, then 33, of Horeke, each pleaded guilty in the Kaikohe District Court on February 21 that year to hunting, killing and possessing kukupa in the Omahuta Conservation Forest on May 24, 2007.