Cyanide hidden in lolly bags

A man who put cyanide baits inside small paper Luggage and Handbags and stapled them to trees close to a busy walking track near the Kaimai Summit in the Bay of Plenty has been fined $2000.

A judge has said the bags would have been attractive to children who were likely to pick them up and potentially ingest the lethal poison and a tramping expert described the man's actions as disgusting.

Dae Van Der Maazen, 37, of Tirau, was convicted and fined by Judge Richard Watson in Tauranga District Court yesterday after he pleaded guilty to a charge that he knowingly and without a permit entered a conservation area with cyanide poison.

The charge attracts a sentence of up to 12 months in prison or a fine up to $10,000. He was also ordered to pay $696.60 reparation for the analyst fee to test the cyanide.

The court was told that on December 28, 2011, despite not holding a permit, Van Der Maazen entered the Kaimai-Mamaku Forest Park via the Henderson's Tramline and stapled numerous cyanide baits in small paper lolly bags to trees along about 4km of this popular walking track.

The next morning a jogger noticed the Ladies' bags, several dead possums, and Van Der Maazen nearby.

When challenged Van Der Maazen claimed he had a permit to do so across the whole block, but the jogger took down his car registration number and reported the matter to the Department of Conservation (DoC).

On January 3, Van Der Maazen again laid about 150 cyanide lolly bags along about 4km of the same track to recover possums for fur.

The next day an off-duty DoC ranger noticed some of the cyanide bags had been laid within arms reach of the track. Some were ripped open with cyanide laying on the ground, and there was a dead possum on the track which the ranger removed. The ranger spoke to Van Der Maazen about his safety concerns and reported the matter to DoC.

The next day DoC rangers found Van Der Maazen as he was leaving the park and seized a sack from him containing nine freshly dead possums and 80 cyanide baits.

When questioned Van Der Maazen said he knew he needed a permit to take possums from the park. He refused to reveal where he got the cyanide.

Van Der Maazen does not hold an approved handlers' certificate to lawfully use the poison.

Judge Watson told Van Der Maazen: "The concern for me was the cyanide was laid by or near a very popular walking track which at this time was being used by lots of trampers from in and around the area, including families.

"I'm particularly concerned that the bait was being laid in lolly bags, which are attractive to children who are likely to pick them up, get it on their hands or ingest it in any way. that's a real concern.

Judge Watson said an aggravating factor to this offending was that Van Der Maazen knew what he was doing was illegal yet did it anyway.

Tauranga DoC ranger Dave Wills said outside court that Van Der Maazen's actions demonstrated the importance of proper controls.

"In this case the cyanide toxin baits were placed in Functional bags along a busy DoC walking track during the height of the visitor season ... We encourage people to control possums but it does require a permit. These can be obtained free of charge from DoC.

A spokeswoman at The Lazy Tramper told the Bay of Plenty Times she was shocked someone had left cyanide baits on such a popular track.

"I think it's disgusting actually. I can't believe it," she said.

"I know there are always people going in there so it's quite a busy place. Then you have your hunters going in there, too. A lot of people take their dogs. It's a bit strange if you ask me."