7 Nov 2018

Man charged over threatening anti-1080 letters

1:03 pm on 7 November 2018

A man has been charged with blackmail in relation to a number of "harrowing" threats made to Department of Conservation (DOC) staff over the use of 1080.

The 1080 drop in the Russell State Forest began over the weekend.

A 1080 drop in the Russell State Forest last month. Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

Police arrested a 65-year-old New Plymouth man and charged him with four counts of blackmail after he sent four threatening letters to DOC staff.

The letters were sent between 25 September 2017 and yesterday.

DOC director general Lou Sanson said the case has been harrowing, and welcomed the man's arrest.

"I want to thank police and DOC staff who have worked tirelessly on this case," Mr Sanson said.

"It is completely unacceptable for anyone to threaten or intimidate DOC staff. This case demonstrates that action will be taken when any criminal offending occurs."

Mr Sanson said there had been a significant increase in threats and abuse against DOC staff, both in person and online.

Most of the abuse was about the use of 1080, a poison which rids conservation land of rats, stoats and possums.

"1080 is the best tool for the job in large, rugged or remote areas and if we don't use it forests will continue to be devastated by pests and we could lose our precious birds such as kiwi, mōhua, and kōkako ," Mr Sanson said.

"Where we are using 1080 to target predators, our native species have started to recover.

"DOC staff need to be able to get on with their job of protecting conservation areas without fear of being harmed or harassed."

That was a message echoed by Detective Inspector Ross McKay.

"While we understand the strength of feeling by some in our community about the use of 1080, it is never acceptable for this to be expressed in the form of threats to individuals," Mr McKay said.

"DOC staff should be able to go about their lawful business without the fear of threats and intimidation. We take very seriously any threats of this nature.

"While I am unable to go into details of our investigation at this stage as matters are now before the court, I can say that it has been tenacious and extensive."

The man will appear in New Plymouth District Court tomorrow.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs