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DOC workers threatened at 1080 court hearing

A judge has labelled harassment of Department of Conservation workers in a court foyer outside a hearing on a 1080 poison drop as a possible contempt of court, and ordered an anti-1080 site to take down photos of the DOC staff members.

The issue emerged yesterday at the Environment Court hearing over Auckland Council's proposed aerial drop of 1080 in the Hunua Ranges.

The case adjourned - after a suggestion for the parties to try mediation could not be advanced - until next Friday, leaving in place an interim order stopping the council form proceeding with the drop.

The application to stop the drop in the Hunuas, the source for two-thirds of Auckland’s water supply, was made by the Friends of Sherwood Trust which opposes “45 tonnes of deadly poison” being dropped from helicopters into the area.

The urgent interim order is currently in place after the council went ahead with a pre-bait drop three minutes before a court-convened conference call last Thursday.

The two-day hearing was at times crowded, with members of the public including land owners living close to the poison drop zone. Protesters were outside the court on both days.

“It’s threatening, it’s awful, it’s intimidating. It’s not just us, unfortunately it happens in this environment. DOC staff are threatened, their families are threatened.”

The judge's comments on contempt of court arose after two female DOC workers who attended the hearing wearing uniform were threatened by another woman.

Their photograph was taken in the foyer of the courtroom on Thursday. The court was told the woman who took the photo said: “I’ve got your photo. Your face is on Facebook. We will get you. Everybody will know you.”

The photos were shared to an anti-1080 page on Facebook. Judge Melanie Harland was alerted to the photograph and asked for it to be taken down on Thursday.

A member of the public in court said it would be removed.

The further allegation of threats being made against the DOC staff when the photograph was taken arose at Friday’s hearing, by DOC’s lawyer.

Judge Melanie Harland said she viewed the behaviour as a contempt of court, and “imprisonment could be considered”.

The woman who made the threats on Thursday was not present on Friday.

One of the DOC workers who had been threatened told Newsroom after the initial threats were made the woman continued to yell at her and her colleague as they walked down the corridor.

“It’s threatening, it’s awful, it’s intimidating. It’s not just us, unfortunately it happens in this environment. DOC staff are threatened, their families are threatened.”

Mediation suggested

During Friday’s hearing Judge Harland suggested the applicants and respondents to the case discuss whether any agreement could be made between the parties with the help of an Environment Court Commissioner acting as a mediator.

This offer was not taken up and the hearing ended.

Differences lingered over interpretation of Resource Management Act rules and the Auckland Council felt that without private landowners represented “the right people were not at the table” for mediation.

Concern also remained over stoats eating poisoned carcasses and possibly causing contamination to streams after they died. While some carcasses would be removed after the operation, many would not because of the fear staff walking through the forest could spread kauri dieback disease.

Auckland Council agreed to file further information with the court by Monday evening on provisions for people who live in the area and take water from streams which may be affected by the poison drop.

The applicants, the Friends of Sherwood Trust and Ngāti Pāoa Trust Board, will have until Tuesday evening to respond. Watercare Services were removed from the case at its request.

Judge Harland expected the court would decide the matter by Friday September 21.

“We have a difficult task, it’s not an easy case to deal with,” she said.

The Friday decision may come too late for Auckland Council’s suggestion of a “reasonable timeline”.

The pre-baits were dropped on Thursday September 6. Ideally, they should be followed by poison baits within seven to 10 days. Auckland Council said if the delay between the pre-bait and the poison bait was more than four weeks, the pre-drop would need to be repeated.

Auckland Council suggested at court that the first poison drop be completed next Friday and a second covering a different water catchment area take place Thursday September 27.

Health rules prevent any poison drops being made during school holidays which start on October 1.

Read more:

No quick solution to 1080 case

Court delays 1080 drop

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