By Luke Balvert
Four Waikato men accused of poaching deer police say are worth about $100,000 from Bay of Plenty farms last year have been remanded on bail without plea.
Matamata brothers Storm Panapa, 17, Maunganui Charlie Panapa, 24, along with Bradley Duncan McKenzie, 19, and Scott Stephen Darroch, 18, appeared in Tauranga Registrar’s Court today jointly charged with thefts of animals.
The charges stem from an alleged illegal poaching ring operating across properties in Pyes Pa, Te Matai Road, Oropi and Rotorua between January and December last year.
The four men, remanded on bail last month, had their indictable charges withdrawn by police today and will reappear in the Registrar’s Court on April 29 on summary charges.
All four are jointly charged with theft of animals with Darroch facing one additional charge of unlawful hunting.
In court the accused’s lawyers asked for an adjournment in the case and requested the four be excused from court at the next appearance.
All four will continue to be remanded on bail to their home addresses in Matamata and are prohibited from any possession of firearms or ammunition.
The accused were arrested in March following police raids in Matamata where 11 firearms, including three .270 high-powered hunting rifles, a .303 rifle, a .243 high-calibre rifle and two shotguns were seized.
Police also seized three vehicles during the raids.
The officer in charge of the investigation, Constable Tim Bonnar said more than 130 rusa, red and fallow deer, valued from $700 to $4500 each, were stolen as part of the poaching operation.