The Minister of Conservation has developed legislation to introduce an infringement system into the main conservation statutes. That will mean that people who commit minor offences in protected areas or in relation to protected species will not have to be prosecuted, but instead can be issued with an infringement notice.
This is the same type of system that is used for traffic offences, fisheries offences and litter offences under other legislation. The Regulatory Impact Statement provides an assessment of the costs and benefits of the proposed legislation.
Protected areas and protected species are managed through a range of statutes, particularly:
- Conservation Act 1987
- Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978
- Marine Reserves Act 1971
- National Parks Act 1980
- Reserves Act 1977
- Trade in endangered Species Act 1989
- Wild Animal Control Act 1977
- Wildlife Act 1953
Those Acts and regulations under them contain a number of offences, such as killing protected wildlife, breaching the whitebaiting rules, fishing in marine reserves. The Department of Conservation and reserve managers can also prosecute people under the Litter Act for dropping litter or dumping rubbish in protected areas.
Under the current legislation, when rangers from the Department of Conservation (or local authorities in reserves they manage) find someone committing an offence, they can only prosecute them or give them a warning. The legislation doesn’t allow the equivalent of a traffic “fine”. Other similar legislation, such as the Fisheries Act, does. Prosecution will mean that someone committing a minor offence, such as a minor breach of the whitebaiting rules, faces a court hearing and the possibility of a criminal record. An infringement system will allow infringement notices (“tickets”) to be issued. If the infringement fee (“fine”) is paid, then that is the end of the matter.
New legislation is therefore proposed to introduce an infringement system in these Acts.