Minister welcomes new conservation legislation

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage says conservation, including marine reserves and sports fish like trout, will be better protected as a result of new law passed last night by Parliament.

The Conservation (Infringement System) Act enables the Department of Conservation (DOC) to use infringement notices for lower level offending instead of a warning or prosecution through the courts.

“I’m pleased that conservation managers now have a new tool for dealing with offending against conservation legislation,” Eugenie Sage said.

“Previously DOC, local authorities and Fish and Game only had two options available to them for enforcing rules for activities such as whitebaiting, fishing in marine reserves and fishing for trout.  They could either issue a warning or take a full prosecution through the courts.

“Now, as a result of this legislation, offending at the lower end of the scale can be dealt with by issuing infringement notices.”

This will support DOC’s role in raising awareness and enforcing compliance with the rules that apply on conservation land, in marine reserves and in relation to protected species.

“An infringement notice sends a stronger deterrent message than a warning, but does not result in a criminal conviction for the offender.

“People who commit more serious offences, or are repeat offenders, can still face prosecution,” Eugenie Sage said.

“The original bill did not cover Fish and Game councils and I asked Parliament’s Environment Select Committee to consult the public on whether Fish and Game’s regional councils should have access to an infringement system.

“The overwhelming majority of submitters supported that and the Act provides the potential for Fish and Game councils to use an infringement system. Parliament has included in the Act a number of conditions that will need to be met before I can authorise Fish and Game Councils to do this; including the development of a compliance and enforcement policy.  That will ensure consistency and fair treatment of alleged offenders.”

Once regulations, staff training, and enabling systems are put in place, DOC will start using infringement notices. In practice this is likely to happen from late 2019.