New Zealand Law Society - Increase in DOC ranger powers supported

Increase in DOC ranger powers supported

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Parliament's Local Government and Environment Committee has released a report on the Wildlife (Powers) Amendment Bill with a recommendation that it be passed with amendments.

The bill would amend the Wildlife Act 1953, and has the objective of reducing offending against protected wildlife by increasing the powers available to rangers.

It proposes new powers for full-time Department of Conservation (DOC) rangers and approved officers from other central government agencies that work with DOC.

These cover the power to seize a wider range of evidence, the power to stop a person, and the power to intervene to prevent offending if the ranger believes a person is committing or about to commit an offence.

Currently rangers only have powers to stop vehicles, vessels, and other items such as bags in transit. The committee has recommended an amendment to make it clear that the power to stop would not enable a ranger to use force.

The bill would also provide a power of arrest to specifically warranted DOC rangers and approved officers from central government agencies that work with DOC. This power would be limited to offences against absolutely protected wildlife, or to the obstruction of officers investigating such offences.

DOC rangers would also be given the ability to require date of birth information and evidence of identification from suspected offenders.

The committee says it considered whether the new powers should apply to Fish and Game rangers, who are specifically excluded. It says the new powers should be restricted to full-time DOC rangers and approved officers who work with them. Fish and Game rangers are responsible for game birds rather than protected wildlife and enhancing their powers would not align with the objective of the bill.

The bill was referred to the committee on 29 March 2016 with submissions closing on 12 May 2016. The committee received seven submissions.