9 Apr 2013

Pilot fined for hovering over mountain

6:58 pm on 9 April 2013

A helicopter pilot has been fined after admitting illegally hovering over the summit of Aoraki/Mount Cook.

The Department of Conservation says aircraft are not allowed to fly or hover near the South Island mountain because of its cultural significance for Maori iwi Ngai Tahu.

The department prosecuted Mapua pilot Jason Manderson in the Timaru District Court on Tuesday.

Manderson admitted that he made the trip on 24 December 2011 as part of a sightseeing flight from the West Coast town of Fox Glacier.

DoC prosecutor Pene Williams said Manderson was sent pictures of the flight which he then published on his Facebook page.

The department traced the original photographer and made sure that the photos were not digitally altered before beginning its investigation.

Judge Joanna Maze described his actions as sacrilege to the people of Ngai Tahu and fined him $3750.

DoC says it would have struggled to prosecute the pilot, had he not posted the photos online.