A man carries the scoop net he uses for catching whitebait. this may be against wildlife conservation laws

What Do I Do If I See Someone Harming the Environment?


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New Zealand has world-renowned scenery, boasting everything from rugged coastal cliffs to beautiful forests, rolling hills, alpine peaks and glaciers. We’re lucky enough to have unique and rare endemic species living here, and our ecology is rich and diverse. No wonder we have wildlife conservation laws to protect nature and animals from wildlife crime.

Nevertheless, these activities still happen. Whether it’s illegal hunting and fishing, destroying habitats, harassing and disturbing animals, or stealing plants and trees – humans can have a devastating impact on Aotearoa ecology.

So what do you do if you see someone committing wildlife crimes or if you see threats to the environment while you’re out and about? This article will guide you in the right direction.

fur seal at the coast. disturbing them is against wildlife conservation laws

What are wildlife conservation law crimes?

Crimes against wildlife conservation laws can vary from using illegal gear while fishing our waterways to removing plants from protected areas to people letting their dogs run free in national parks.

All of these activities are damaging to the environment, which is why the Department of Conservation (DOC) administers a wide range of legislation designed to protect it. These include but are not limited to The Conservation Act 1987 and National Parks Act 1980.

Most common threats

According to the DOC, which we’re partnered with on the Lead the Way Auckland programme, the most common threats include:

  • Taking dogs or domestic pets into controlled areas, such as national parks and island nature reserves
  • Using illegal gear or methods for white baiting
  • Fishing in marine reserves; all marine life in marine reserves is protected
  • Taking sports fish without a license, or fishing during a closed season
  • Disturbing marine mammals; mammals such as seals, dolphins and whales are protected and commercial interaction is strictly regulated
  • Taking, injuring or killing protected species; most of our native bird species, geckos, lizards, some frogs and invertebrates are absolutely protected
  • Theft of native trees, harvesting protected flora
  • Damaging historic features or sites
Whitebait. catching them may be against wildlife conservation laws

What if I see someone breaking wildlife conservation laws?

So what do you do if you see individuals or groups breaking the law? Here are the steps to reporting wildlife crime:

1. Seek safety first

It’s generally not recommended to confront someone who’s committing a wildlife crime in New Zealand. Confrontation can put you in danger and potentially escalate the situation. Instead, stay calm and take steps to ensure your own safety. This may involve moving away from the situation or seeking cover.

2. Collect information

Once you’re not under any sort of threat, collect information. Write down as much information as possible about what you saw, including the date, time, location, description of the wildlife involved, and description of the individual or individuals committing the crime.

If there’s a vehicle involved, get its registration number. If it’s a boat, make note of the boat name. Also take photographs or video if possible.

3. Contact wildlife conservation law authorities

Now, contact the authorities. Report the wildlife crime to the DOC or your local council. You can also contact the police at 111 if the crime is severe or involves violence.

DOC has trained warranted officers located in most of its district offices who investigate the breaking of wildlife conservation laws. Use the special 24-hour emergency hotline for reporting: 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468). If you’re hearing, eyesight or speech impaired you can use the New Zealand Relay Service (external site) to call them.

This page has contact information for local offices.

4. Provide as much information as possible

When you report the crime, provide as much information as you can, including the details you collected and any evidence, such as photos or videos. In some cases, the authorities may need to conduct a more thorough investigation and gather additional evidence, so it’s important to be patient and cooperative with them.

Your report can play an important role in protecting New Zealand’s wildlife and ensuring those who harm it are held accountable.

Department of Conservation protects animals like this New Zealand Yellow-eyed penguin or Hoiho

Responsible pet ownership

As mentioned, off-leash pets are a huge problem in our national parks. Pets, especially dogs, can pose a threat to native wildlife, disrupt ecosystems, and damage sensitive habitats.

Free roaming may put them in danger, too. Beaches, lakes and the wilderness are filled with poisonous plants, creatures and hazards that can harm your pet if they’re left to their own devices.

In New Zealand, there are hefty fines for dogs in national parks.

Here’s how to be a responsible dog parent:

Know where wildlife conservation laws say you can’t go

DOC stipulates that you can’t take your dog to a controlled dog area, national park, or nature reserve. This includes when you’re boating.

Keep a close eye out for signposts that will notify you you’ve arrived in a restricted location. You may not stop on the foreshore of any such island or piece of land – meaning the entire beach area down to the low tide level. You should also be aware that car parks in national parks, such as Kerr Bay in the Nelson Lakes NP, are No Pet areas.

This pet parent is training a cat to walk on a lead.
And find out where you can

New Zealand has strict rules around pets in restricted areas. With that said, there are plenty of walking tracks that you can take your pet on. Use the DOC’s handy ‘dogs allowed’ tick box function when searching your walking track to see if dogs are allowed.

Lead the way

Even in areas where they’re allowed, pets should always be on a leash. A long or short lead is very useful on a walking track or beach, for keeping both your pet and other animals safe. Even more so when it’s colour coded – something the DOC’s Lead the Way programme strongly encourages.

Watch this video for more information about it.

Upskill your wildlife wise ways

Part of our campaign is a quiz that teaches pet parents about wildlife conservation laws. Once you complete the quiz, it unlocks the ability to purchase a Lead the Way lead for your dog or cat. These high quality, locally-made leads indicate your pet’s temperament to other pet parents.

They’re either green, orange, yellow or red, which means the below:

  • Green – your pet is happy to be around other pets and people.
  • Orange – your pet isn’t always comfortable around other pets and people.
  • Red – your pet doesn’t like socialising with unfamiliar pets or people.
  • Yellow – your pet is disabled or vulnerable to interactions in some way.

You’ll also be very clearly demonstrating your support for the protection of our precious wildlife. Hopefully that encourages others to do the same!

Check our guide on being a responsible pet parent while in the NZ outdoors for more info.

Ensure you have insurance

One of the most responsible dog parenting acts is to cover them with pet insurance so you can afford medical help quickly wherever you are in NZ. You never know when your canine companion will get into an accident or come down with an illness. Having to choose between your pocket and their medical care is something no pet parent wants to do.

PD Insurance is an award-winning brand that offers value-rich, month-to-month dog insurance for your pup. Why not get a quote now?

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