By Sonita Chandar
Poachers are travelling hundreds of kilometres to illegally hunt on farms in the central North Island.
A farming couple, who do not wish to be identified, say they have been victims of constant rustling and poaching since buying their property 48 years ago.
Four years ago, black-light security cameras were installed in a bid to catch poachers. After several face-to-face encounters, the couple came to the realisation those hunting illegally were not locals.
People from Auckland, Morrinsville, Napier and Palmerston North have been identified.
''Incredible as it may seem, these hunters are travelling hundreds of kilometres to go shooting on our property. You just wouldn't credit that someone would travel from so far away when there is probably good hunting in their area.''
They say constant stock rustling has hampered their production growth.
''We spent years trying to build stock numbers but we could never manage it. All we noticed was stock numbers declining and there was nothing we could do about it.
''There have been many occasions where stock have been shot but not killed and left in agonising pain.''
In one instance, the camera captured video and still images of two men heading into the bush at night. More images were captured as they came out again.
''The images are date and time stamped and, by chance, my son was walking past and decided to check the camera and found these hunters had not long gone past. He shot up the road to our place and we drove around to where the hunters would have come out of the bush.''
The hunters were still there and the farmer took their photo to match with the images on the camera as well as noting their vehicle licence plate number.
''The men basically told my husband that he couldn't take their photo without permission. Then they tried to act all friendly and when we told them about the camera capturing them, they had no idea surveillance cameras were operating.''
Photos and the licence plate number were passed on to police who discovered the vehicle was registered to a man working at Ohakea Air Force Base.
''Police told us even though the men had been identified, the airforce had said they would deal with the matter internally and there was nothing more that could be done except issue them with trespass notices.
''We never heard another word, never an apology from either of them, which we thought was pretty poor considering who they worked for.''
FRIGHTENING FOR FAMILY
On another occasion, while driving to the southern area of their property, the couple came across a vehicle parked on the road. The vehicle belonged to a person known to them.
''He had two other men with him and, once we got chatting, we found the two were a father and son from Auckland who had come down to go hunting. The guy we knew was showing them a good place to go shooting.
''We set them straight, told them cameras were operating and they couldn't shoot on our place.''
Another man spoken to following the roar earlier this year was also from Auckland. He intended to go hunting.
While laying trap lines, the couple's son and niece came across a man carrying a gun.
''He cheerily called out to them and asked if they were out hunting, too. My son told him to leave as he was on private property and couldn't shoot here.
''Our son blocked his exit from the farm so he couldn't get his quad bike out and called police. Police found out he was from Morrinsville. The hunter made a comment that if hunting was allowed in his own area, there wouldn't be a need for people like him to travel to go shooting.''
The couple asked to have him trespassed but were unsuccessful, as police told them it was not easy.
''We couldn't understand why, as he had been shown the boundaries and told he was on private land and had been asked to leave.''
Their property borders Department of Conservation land, and while boundaries are clearly identified, this doesn't appear to stop people wandering onto their property, they say.
''We probably wouldn't give permission for people to hunt on our property, anyway, as there is a danger of us getting shot at. In the time we have owned this property, we have only ever been asked permission once.
''All of the family at one stage or another has been shot at, which is frightening for anyone, let alone little children.''
The couple say the cameras have be relatively effective, as once word got around there was surveillance on the property, illegal activity did decrease slightly.
''I guess hunters in Auckland, Waikato, Hawke's Bay and the Manawatu didn't get the memo.''
Although the couple run limited stock now, their business has diversified into tourism, which is a good reason to protect their land from poachers, they say.
''We have let parts of the farm revert back to native bush, and what is gratifying about this is we have kiwis, whios (blue ducks), native falcons, native snails and all manner of wildlife. It is New Zealand as it should be.''