A young Makarau woman is recovering from a face-to-face encounter with an armed man attempting to shoot cattle on her property at night.
Robyn Donald broke her arm when she slipped and fell onto a large boulder while trying to get away from the man, in the early hours of January 25. She says he was carrying a high-powered hunting rifle, equipped with a silencer and scope.
“I went out to investigate a noise and when I turned on my torch I was less than two metres from a man with a gun,” Robyn says.
“Luckily, the torch light blinded him, but it also wrecked my night vision. I turned the torch off so he couldn’t track me, and turned and ran. I heard another man shout something and then I hit a rock and fell.”
Helensville Police are investigating and Community Constable Mandi Bell says there were two incidents of poachers being disturbed by residents in Makarau, during the early hours of January 25.
“If you see poachers with firearms please don’t approach them; call 111 immediately,” Constable Bell says. “Many farms are isolated and to tackle this very serious issue, we need to work together.”
Residents say they heard a shot fired during the earlier incident further along Wech Access, but believe dogs scared off the thieves.
Robyn says she knows of six incidents where poachers have attempted, and in one case succeeded, to shoot and butcher stock. She says many rural residents don’t report these crimes to Police, and are reluctant to go public for fear of reprisals.
“I’m scared that someone is going to get killed. It’s the first time in two years that I’ve left the house at night without my bow, but it may have saved my life. Police told me that when both parties are armed there is a far higher chance that it will end tragically,” Robyn says.
Federated Farmers rural security spokesman Rick Powdrell says that according to national research surveys, cattle theft has increased. More than half of farmers surveyed last December said they had suffered stock theft.
“These are significant numbers – well over 500 farmers targeted and a significant number of stock taken,” Rick says.
The research indicated that some stock theft ends up as meat sold on the black market or is taken for personal use. Highly organised crews are also stealing large numbers, rounding up sheep and beef into roadside trucks. Rick says he is concerned that only 41 per cent of farmers surveyed reported stock theft to Police.
“Farmers need to report everything to Police because that is the only way we will get increased resources to tackle the problem.”
Rick has also been a victim of stock theft, when thieves took four breeding rams worth $1500 each. Currently, sheep are worth between $100 and $200 and large steer up to $1600. Rick says it’s difficult to quantify the total cost of poaching, but the figure is huge.
“It’s estimated stock theft alone costs the industry around $120 million a year. It’s big money and many farmers are being targeted repeatedly.”
Staying safe in rural areas
• Use the rural RAPID numbering system to identify your property for emergency services.
• Know your neighbours, exchange contact details and prepare a plan to assist each other in an emergency.
• Tag animals, keep accurate stock and produce records, and check stock regularly.
• Ensure that all buildings and gates on road boundaries are locked, and that stock is checked regularly.
• Keep an accurate inventory, including serial numbers, of all valuables and equipment.
• Report all incidents of suspicious behaviour, poaching or suspected poaching.
• Obtain a vehicle registration and a description of the vehicle if it is safe to do so.
• If you see poachers with firearms do not approach them. Call 111 immediately.