Bill to reform conservation law enforcement passes first reading

Department of Conservation staff will be able to issue infringement notices and reduce the number of costly prosecutions under a bill that passed its first reading last night.

“The Conservation (Infringement System) Amendment Bill updates eight separate Acts to allow the Department of Conservation to issue infringement notices instead of prosecuting for minor offences.” Ms Sage says.

The bill was introduced under the previous Government. Currently all conservation offences under the Acts and regulations have to be dealt with either as a formal warning or through the courts.

“Our national parks, public conservation lands and indigenous plants and wildlife need to be kept safe from illegal human activities, but I don’t want to see people prosecuted and get a criminal conviction for a minor breach of the whitebaiting regulations, or dropping litter in a park.”

Ms Sage said the offences in the current law covered a wide range of offending.

“Someone who fishes in a marine reserve inadvertently, and does not catch any fish or do any harm, may now get an infringement notice.  Someone who deliberately flouts the rules, and poaches fish is still likely to end up in court.

“The bill has been drafted so serious offences such as using a firearm unsafely or harming threatened species will not be given infringement notices but will be prosecuted.

“These changes bring DOC’s powers in line with how low level offences are dealt with in fisheries management, biosecurity, dog control, resource management, traffic and parking.”

The Bill has been referred to the Environment Select Committee for consideration and public submissions.

“I welcome the unanimous support received in the House last night and look forward to receiving the Select Committee report in due course.”

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