Visitors to the North Island’s Pureora Forest are being urged to report damage and suspicious behavior after a Department of Conservation shelter was targeted by vandals for a second time.
The shelter, which is used by trampers, quad bikers or mountain bikers, was damaged in a suspicious fire in late 2019.
The shelter was repaired by volunteer duo Murray and Judy Bramald – the Trail Angels – but it was subsequently targeted in June, by vandals who have daubed it in extensive graffiti.
Oscar Emery, the Department of Conservation’s Maniapoto District operations manager, says a second bout of willful damage at the site undermines the commitment and effort of Murray and Judy and DOC’s staff.
"This is very frustrating," Oscar says. "We manage these sites on behalf of the people of New Zealand, for everyone to enjoy – and someone is deliberately trashing them.
"Murray and Judy recently won a Volunteering Waikato award for their conservation efforts in the Pureora Forest and although they’ve committed to helping us tidy up this mess, the simple fact is they shouldn’t have to."
Arranging for repairs and clean-up after DOC assets have been vandalised diverts resources and funds from core conservation work and compromises the visitor experience.
Although the Trail Angels will volunteer their time to carry out repairs to the shelter, DOC has had to carry the cost of the materials for the job – several hundred dollars for the two separate repairs to the shelter. Staff time also needs to be diverted from core conservation work to what is ultimately clean-up jobs.
"We’d rather be spending that money, time and effort elsewhere – not cleaning up after people who’ve trashed taxpayer-funded assets."
The shelter is about a 30-minute bike ride into Pureora Forest, from the Piropiro Rd entrance – making it one of the most easily accessible DOC assets on the popular Timber Trail.
"DOC relies on the New Zealand public to be our eyes and ears," Oscar says. "We urge people who encounter damage on public conservation land to report what they’ve seen via: 0800 DOC HOT – the department’s 24-hour hotline – and we’ll get one of our team on to it."
Earlier this year, vandals also used angle grinders to cut padlocks on bollards on the Maramataha Bridge and Okauaka Bridge – part of the Timber Trail. A number of other bollards and gates were also compromised and damage was caused to bridges and tracks.
DOC uses bollards and security gates to stop damage caused to essential assets by motorised vehicles.
If visitors see willful damage or suspicious behaviour occurring on public conservation land, they should report it to New Zealand Police along with any potentially useful information such as descriptions of people or vehicles, as well as locations, times and dates.
But Oscar Emery also asked people to ensure they do so sensibly and safely: "We do not recommend people intervene if they encounter a criminal incident on DOC land – we don’t want members of the public putting themselves in harm’s way, and we urge them to contact police immediately."
DOC reports all incidents of vandalism to the New Zealand Police.