27 Nov 2020

Police and DOC hunt vandals who invaded skink habitat and destroyed property

11:04 am on 27 November 2020

The Department of Conservation is appealing for information after four-wheel drivers put rare West Coast skinks at risk by driving over their habitat.

The Alborn Skink

The Alborns skink, which is only found at one site near Reefton. Photo: James Reardon/DOC

The Alborns skink is part of the speckled skink family and is only found at one site near Reefton close to Big River, which is off-limits to vehicles.

The vandals pulled up fences, ripped up track, destroyed grassed areas, intimidated hut users, left motorbike burnouts inside the hut, left rubbish, cut down trees, pulled down gates, smashed posts and cut wires and did donuts in a contaminated site.

DOC Senior Heritage and Visitor Asset Ranger Sam Symonds said the damage was thought to be related to an ongoing issue of vandalism in the area, with continued after destruction of assets and vegetation at the Big River Hut and Mine site.

Damage to natural and historic features in a public conservation area is an offence under the Conservation Act 1987 and can lead to prosecution and up to two years in prison and/or a fine up to $100,000.

DOC Biodiversity Senior Ranger, Darrell Haworth said 17 skinks had previously been found in the area that was destroyed.

Within the last two years, vandals had been causing havoc and left behind a trail of destruction. Police have been involved previously but Haworth said they hoped to catch the culprits through the help of the public.