DoC Prying Spying Gets Caned
The Department of Conservation has been spying on the anti-1080 poison public using controversial security firm Thompson and Clark, National Radio’s “Checkpoint” recently reported.
The news brought strong reaction from the anti-1080 public. Andi Cockroft, co-chairman Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations of NZ (CORANZ) said the spying showed the deceit and deception which bureaucrats would stoop to.
“This clearly demonstrates the levels to which the public’s government agencies will stoop to while pushing their abhorrent poisoning programme,” he said.
Laurie Collins spokesman for the Sporting Hunters Outdoor Trust (SHOT) described the spying as “bizarre and dangerous.”
New Zealand was a democracy not a dictatorship run by bureaucrats he said.
“DoC seem to be in total denial of democracy and that they’re public servants supposedly accountable to the public. They are actually spying on their employers - a sizeable chunk of the people who pay DOC’s bills and salaries. It’s melodramatic nonsense. It smacks of a propaganda war with introduced animal paranoia driving it.”
He added it was “police state stuff akin to a Third World country.”
The surveillance firm Thompson and Clark uses secret chat channels to communicate with government departments, and share information about members of the public it's monitoring for those departments.
Checkpoint under the Official Information Act found the Department of Conservation has used Thompson and Clark to monitor anti-1080 activists since October 2016. Checkpoint said DOC had spent $103,187 excluding GST with Thompson and Clark since 2015 and paid $3737 per month for the intelligence Thompson and Clark provided about anti-1080 activists - called a "risk assessment package”.
Checkpoint revealed the intelligence was shared with DOC staff via multiple private channels on messaging app Slack. There was also a weekly phone briefing involving senior staff from both organisations. But DOC is refusing to release any information or communication from any of the channels.
"It is deemed that providing such information may prevent supply of such information in the future and therefore jeopardise the safety of our staff," DOC's director of safety, Harry Maher, said in an OIA response.
But the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was not impressed with DOC’s furtive spying.Greenpeace has also alleged it was spied on by Thompson and Clark, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern last month warned government departments against using the firm to spy on the public.
"Their behaviour around spying and so on is totally inappropriate," she said.
Harry Maher said the intelligence gathering was necessary because of threats made by anti-1080 activists who in some cases had threatened to shoot down helicopters.
"They've threatened to kill our staff and their families, we've had physical confrontation, and we've had instances of tampering with vehicles, loosening wheel nuts.
"So we needed a specialist security company to help us with that because we just don't have the resources or expertise," Mr Maher said.
But allegations of vehicle sabotage and harassment were dismissed in Checkpoint by Bill Wallace.
“Their staff aren’t at risk,” he said on Checkpoint. “It’s a beat-up."
Laurie Collins said DOC’s behaviour was poor public relations. The unjust, unwarranted treatment of three pensioners at a Whitianga 1080 storage site was a P.R. disaster for the department.
“That and the paranoid squawking by DOC’s director-general over imagined sika deer releases, WARO operations, mega-1080 drops and now spying, aggravates their already poor public image to their taxpayer employers,” he said.