INCLUDES DR. WENDY POND’S WITNESS STATEMENT TO DoC ASSAULT ON GRAEME STURGEON, COROMANDEL
From Carol Sawyer
Author and conservationist, Graeme Sturgeon, was assaulted, his clothing ripped, his face left bloodied, and his car doorhandle broken, by DoC employees on 17 October 2017.
“…the driver’s door was opened, he was hauled out, and punched in the face by a DOC contractor, Mr X, without warning or explanation.”
There were two witnesses, Dr. Wendy Pond, and artist Diana Halstead. They had been told DoC were loading 1080 poison in the middle of Whitianga and had gone to investigate. All three are senior citizens in their seventies. They had done nothing wrong and were in a public car park and were amazed at the scene that confronted them.
I am told the 1080 poison had apparently been stored in the DoC office in the CENTRE OF TOWN, for approximately six weeks, unbeknown to the Mayor of Thames, Coromandel District Council, maybe also unknown to the Fire Chief, and apparently unknown to the other tenants of the building. DoC were caught out breaking all the rules, in other words !
I should add that the New World Supermarket is across the road, Countdown is 24 Joan Gaskell Road, so virtually next door. The 1080 poison was surrounded by food outlets in other words.
As well as this the 1080 poison was apparently stored in another tenant, Platinum Homes’ storage area. Platinum Homes, I am told, knew nothing off this and are furious.
Here is the witness statement of Dr. Wendy Pond, signed at the Whitianga Police Station today. Diana Halstead has also written a witness statement, which will be posted soon.
PS: The truck photos are in daylight because they were taken by the person who made the contact phone call to Graeme Sturgeon, but the trucks didn’t move until dark – as it was obviously a clandestine operation, and Diana, Wendy and Graeme arrived on dark.
STATEMENT BY A WITNESS TO THE ASSAULT:
Statement by Dr Wendy Rona Pond, secretary of Manu Waiata Restoration & Protection Society, regarding violent and unregulated actions by Department of Conservation staff in the Liquor King car park, 20 Joan Gaskell Drive, Whitianga around 8.30 pm on 17 October 2017.
1. DoC’s communication guidelines describe consultation as a willingness to take on board new ideas. In my experience, DoC staff do not give credibility to public knowledge, although worldwide the term “citizen science” recognises that the public conservation movement is observant and articulate. I hold in high regard the skills and observations of Coromandel permaculturalists, bushmen, beekeepers, pig hunters, medical herbalists, retired scientists, engineers and tradesmen who advise my secretarial work. These people have observed first hand the harm and cruelty of 1080 and want their knowledge to be respected.
Instead, a wide discrepancy has developed between “DoC science” and its militarisation, and on the other hand public awareness of the harm to the mauri of the forests from the alien chemistry of the poisons used by DoC for predator control, and a strong sense in rural communities that we are entitled to a say in how our forests are managed. Coromandel residents place strong emphasis on the role of forests in recreation and employment and training youth in bushcraft and self reliance.
I believe this gap could be removed with genuine consultation. Meanwhile the gap was the basis for events on Tuesday 17 October 2017. Note that all actions on our part were non-violent.
2. Around 8pm on Tuesday 17 October people gathered to camp and observe and demonstrate at Kaimarama Road learned that bales of 1080 poison baits were being loaded onto trucks in the vicinity of the Countdown food market. Manu Waiata has reported to the Attorney General on the unlawful uses of 1080, but such blatant disregard for public health and safety was astonishing. I decided to make my own observation.
I drove to Liquor King and parked amongst customers outside Platinum Homes. I walked along the cars looking for others from Kaimarama. As I turned around the back of the building I was startled to come across a contingent of men in dark clothing, standing in front of a high cab with the initials HR (HeliResources) and on the tray a stack covered in black polythene, well roped down. I recognised the DoC 1080 projects manager Nick Kelly and the DoC 1080 senior ranger Steve Bolton. In the night shadows I saw Graeme Sturgeon, standing unsteadily with his nose bleeding and his shirt torn open. Tucked against the back wall of the building was Sturgeon’s campervan which is a local icon for its motto above the front windscreen, “See your own country now before DoC poisons it to hell”.
Parked across the entrance to the back car park I saw a saloon with a lone woman standing beside it facing the wall of men. I recognised Diana Halstead by her flaming hair. She told me hastily that Sturgeon had been beaten up by DoC and the police had been called. I learned later in the evening that Diana Halstead had followed Sturgeon in her car and had stopped when the campervan stopped suddenly. Sturgeon had not anticipated he would run into a convoy of trucks at the back of the building. As he was bringing his van to a halt, the driver’s door was opened, he was hauled out, and punched in the face by a DOC contractor, Mr X, without warning or explanation.
The suddeness of the DoC beating beggared belief, until I reflected that they had been caught red-handed in an illicit operation. Diana Halstead’s headlights had shone onto the campervan and she had witnessed the beating.
I realised with a shock that we were at the back of the DoC office newly adopted for the 2017 aerial 1080 operations. I had previously parked here and knew that the trucks occupied an area marked with white lines for public parking.Why were DoC staff loading the trucks in the public car park? I was confounded, but I didn’t have time to reflect.
Diana had stepped out of her car and when I arrived she was being told by a DoC agent unknown to me (Mr X) that she had entered a private work place and was to remove her car. I thought in a flash – there are no notices stating the parking spaces are reserved as a DoC work place – there are no notices stating it is a hazard area – the trucks are not separated by barriers with poison signs on them – there are no poison warning signs on the trucks – this is a clandestine operation – DoC have been caught off-guard by people who recognise what the trucks are carrying – maybe that’s why they beat up Sturgeon – Diana’s car had a clear line of sight to Sturgeon being beaten up – in an unresolved dispute she has a right not to move her car.
3. Right. DoC is bullying her. I said loudly, “Diana, go and sit in your car and don’t move it.”; Then I said to the crowd of men, firmly, “You must all wait for the police.”; A bearded DoC agent (Mr Y) stepped up to me and said, “You havent got a clue.”; I was startled. A scholar whose work is read internationally is told she hasn’t got a clue. I saw the DoC operations manager and his senior ranger couldn’t help being amused. The world split open. None of us has a clue what we are doing to our eco-systems, dosing native forests with an alien chemical – Whether DoC is right or we are right, none of us has a clue about long-term consequences because there is no research – A world authority on scientific method has said that New Zealand’s wholesale poisoning of eco-systems is madness – All of us standing here in this clandestine operation are engaged in madness. This daft human being is enlightened. I began to laugh. I couldn’t stop laughing as each new thought dawned on me. – All our evidence shows that what we are doing to our forests is madness.
4. Now Mr Y saw another chance for ridicule, “What are you on?” he said. This is a sinister side of DoC – staff have been taught to think of us not as scientists, ecologists, skilled bushmen, good men making a living, but as hippies and druggies – mongrels Maggie Barry calls us – this is how the American military are trained to think of common people as the enemy – DoC has militarised aerial poisoning instead of using trapping for local industry and employment. A senior scientist says, “You would only use 1080 if you were desperate.”; The situation in Moehau and Papakai forests is not desperate. The need to use poisoning is a mind-set, not a reality. It is part of DoC’s madness.
5. Meanwhile, DoC staff began moving the trucks out along the far side of the building. There was a sense of haste. They were going to leave before the police arrived.
6. I returned to my car with the purpose of moving before I became hemmed in by the convoy. One of the trucks had already come to a standstill behind my car. Mr X appeared and asked me to wait for all the trucks to assemble.
On reflecting that the violent Mr X had no authority in a public car park, and no authority over a member of the public, and recalling that his instructions to Diana had been against her best interest, I swivelled round and looked square through the back window. The next truck had not arrived and there was a clear space behind me. I put the car into reverse gear, and my foot on the brake to hold it while I checked again for clearance. While I was looking backwards Mr X deftly opened my car door (breaking and entering), took hold of the ignition key, and attempted to pull the key out (intention to detain). I took my left hand off the gear lever, and using both my hands I tried with all my strength to wrestle with his hand. As we struggled, there was moment when his grip released and I could put my right hand over the key. To my utter astonishment Mr X tried again to wrench out both my hand and the key (assault). I was determined to protect my privacy and safety from this man who had already demonstrated that he could act with intuitive violence.
Eventually he let go. I am still revolted by his insinuation and indecent swiftness, and alarmed by DoC’s disregard for lawful process.
Steve Bolton, Doc 1080 senior ranger, had observed the actions of Mr X without intervening, and he now stepped forward and said, “Your car was stopped because you backed into me.” It is clear that Steve Bolton was inventing a cover for Mr X’s action, as my car had not moved. It was still sitting where I had parked it and when I had looked backwards through my rear window, there had been no person in view. If Steve Bolton was behind my car, he would have been able to hold up his hand to stop the approaching trucks and let me out. And I am troubled that a senior DoC ranger did not intercede when Mr X assaulted me.
7. On Wednesday 18 October we held a non-violent demonstration at the mKaimarama bridge. Women, children, scientists, bushmen, people of all walks.
Ninety percent of New Zealanders prefer hunting and trapping for predator control. I watched the HR helicopters flying above a thriving forest canopy that has scarcely a dead tree. The heketara was in full flower, like patches of snow in the bush. This is when native bees emerge and collect pollen. With the decline of honey bees we are dependent on native bees for pollinators. Why would any sane ranger poison them?
Why would a New Zealand government department ignore its local community, militarise its conservation operations, break the law by handling toxic substances in a shopping complex, assault an eyewitness, take the keys of cars in a public space, and leave before the police arrived? Is DoC outside the rule of law?
8. Events on 17 October demonstrate to the public that violence and lawlessness were perpetrated by Department of Conservation, and not by us.
9. I request :
That Department of Conservation is charged by the NZ Police with ignoring public health and safety and with ignoring its own regulations and controls.
That the DoC operations manager is charged with leaving the scene of an unlawful assault without waiting for the police, without providing medical assistance to Graeme Sturgeon, and without supplying the identity of the perpetrator of the assault.
That the NZ Police bring charges of assault and intention to detain against Mr X. This man is not constrained by law and decency and he is a danger to the public.
That Steve Bolton, senior DoC ranger, and Nick Kelly, DoC 1080 operations manager, are charged with failing to intervene when a security agent under their jurisdiction assaulted members of the public who had made no act of violence.
That all DoC staff, and all agents employed by Department of Conservation, are retrained to act without violence; to respect citizen science; and to reach accord with the local community before carrying out predator control and other programs affecting people’s own environment.
I suggest that Mr X is sent to a psychiatrist for re-assessment and then sent to restore physically disabled people. He is a man of intuitive violence and devoid of conscience, but deft.
I suggest that Mr Y is sent to university for re-education. He is daft but he has potential.
Further updates (23 Oct. 2017)
“The three of us decided we would wait for the police. Graeme S rang Whitianga Police Station and was connected to Hamilton and after an hour or so a policeman arrived, but he went straight to talk to the DOC office staff inside the building. We continued to stand in the cold night air. We could hear DOC staff laughing during their police interview. No medical attention was offered to Graeme S even though DOC staff would have had a First Aid medical kit and a cup of tea in their office.”
COROMANDEL ASSAULT BY DoC – NO POLICE INCIDENT REPORT HAS BEEN FILED !
This morning I spoke with Dr. Wendy Pond, a former Senior Lecturer at Victoria University, Wellington, who was one of the witnesses to the assault on Graeme Sturgeon on the evening of 17 October, 2017, in the carpark at the back of the Liquor King building in Whitianga’s CBD, where DoC workers were loading 20 tonnes of 1080 poison baits, ready for aerial distribution over the Coromandel countryside the following day.
Graeme Sturgeon, Wendy Pond, and Diana Halstead had all come to see what was going on after being alerted to the poison loading operation by John Allen, who in turn had been alerted to it by Benny Rebz. Benny had just happened to stumble on the loading operation by chance and immediately realized what was happening and called an alert.
Diana, Wendy and Graeme had been camped for the night on a farm road, Kaimarama Road, ten minutes drive away, near the site of the upcoming 1080 drop. Their intention had been to be out early in the morning looking for baits and dust in the river, as water ( people’s drinking water ! ) was their main concern. (See photos of the Kaimarama River, beside Kaimarama Road ).
When they had driven back into town, and arrived at 20 Joan Gaskell Drive ( the Liquor King building ), Graeme drove down the alleyway to the public carpark at Liquor King first and was punched while still in his vehicle, he was hauled out of his vehicle, the doorhandle broken and his clothing torn.
Wendy and Diana both filed witness reports with the police, and assault reports of their own, with the Whitianga police on Saturday. I have posted these up previously, but both witness reports are here at the end of this post for those who have not caught up with this outrageous story yet.
All three people are senior citizens in their seventies. Diana Halstead is an artist, Graeme Sturgeon is an author and conservationist and Dr. Wendy Pond is an anthropologist.
Here is what Dr. Pond told me this morning :
After Graeme was assaulted she and Diana were worried about him. He wasn’t in a good way. They assumed the police had been called and waited. Eventually they realized the police could not have been called and rang the police themselves. Constable Bernard Deadman arrived about 10.00 pm. Wendy raced up to him and said “We’ve been assaulted” and he said ” I will talk to DoC first.” and went inside the building, where he stayed for approximately half an hour, before talking to them. They could hear laughter inside. Wendy said it seemed like a long time because it was cold and they were shivering, and shaken by events, and concerned about Graeme’s welfare and felt he should have medical attention.
Wendy said ” The first thing they should have done was attend to Graeme’s medical condition. He was shaky and shaken and his nose was bleeding.”
Graeme Sturgeon was seen by his doctor the next day.
On Saturday, Diana made the long trip back up to Coromandel, from Te Mata where she lives, as she and Wendy had an appointment at 11.00 am to handover their witness statements in front of the local Coromandel policeman Sergeant John Morrissey.
Yesterday, Diana Halstead rang the Whitianga Police and got put through to the Hamilton Police Station ( this happens occasionally in small country towns – you get diverted to the nearest Main Centre ). Hamilton Police told her no incident report had been filed for the night of Tuesday, 17 October, 2017.
Half an hour later Wendy Pond rang and managed to get through to the Whitianga Police. She spoke to Sergeant Andrew Morrison who is in charge of this incident and asked him why there wasn’t an incident report. He replied ” Well I suppose I haven’t got round to it yet. But I have interviewed the man concerned”. ( Wendy is not sure whether this meant Graeme Sturgeon or the man who committed the assault.)
Sgt Morrison also said it was up to the Police whether they decided to lay charges or not.
Dr. Pond has asked me to add this : “The Police, being local, are members of the local community, and the people do not want to get offside with the Police”, and Graeme Sturgeon said to me this morning, “Many local policemen are hunters, and do not like 1080 poison either.”
There are so many things wrong with what happened last week in Coromandel it is hard to know where to start. Fortunately the locals concerned have quite a lot of photographic evidence.
1 ) Loading 20 tonnes of 1080 poison in a public carpark. Platinum Homes, in the front of the building knew nothing of this. They had clients coming and going until 8.30 at night on that evening, I’m told. About six weeks ago they were told they could no longer use the storage area they had been using at the back of the building but were not told that was because it was to be loaded up with 1080 ! There are private homes right next door to the carpark. A busy New World supermarket is across the road and a Countdown supermarket almost next door too. The proximity of 20 tonnes of one of the most lethal poisons in the world to food outlets is alarming to say the least. What if there had been a fire ?! Locals say it appears the Whitianga Fire Brigade were not aware of this substance being stored in the middle of their town.( See Google Earth photos, including residential properties right next door and photos of the workers loading 1080 poison in a public carpark, with no signs saying ” Keep Out” ).
2 ) None of the workers loading the poison are wearing gloves or masks. ( See photos )
3 ) The security guards at the 1080 drop zone had no ID and their vehicle had had its number plate removed and its registration and diesel labels removed from their window sleeves.They had set up a “pretend” high voltage electric fence on a farm road, Kaimarama Road. ( See photos )
4) Most seriously of all, three senior citizens, who were doing nothing wrong and were in a public place, were assaulted by DoC security guards who refused to give their names, while local DoC staff known to the three elderly people did nothing to stop what was happening.( See photos of Graeme Sturgeon with his clothing ripped to shreds and his nose bloodied ).
Witness statements :
DIANA HALSTEAD’S WITNESS STATEMENT TO POLICE RE DoC ASSAULT ON GRAEME STURGEON, COROMANDEL
Author and conservationist, Graeme Sturgeon, was assaulted, his clothing ripped, , ( his jacket and his shirt – you can see the evidence by his collar ), his face left bloodied, and his car doorhandle broken, by DoC employees on 17 October 2017. There were four witnesses, Dr. Wendy Pond, and artist Diana Halstead. They had been told DoC were loading 1080 poison in the middle of Whitianga and had gone to investigate. All three are senior citizens in their seventies.They had done nothing wrong and were in a public carpark and were amazed at the scene that confronted them.
Local people have informed me that the 1080 poison had apparently been stored at the back of the DoC office in the CENTRE OF TOWN, for approximately six weeks, unbeknownst to the Mayor of Thames Coromandel District Council, maybe also unknown to the Fire Chief, and apparently unknown to the other tenants of the building. DoC were caught out breaking all the rules, in other words !
I should add that the New World Supermarket is across the road, Countdown is 24 Joan Gaskell Road, so virtually next door. The 1080 poison was surrounded by food outlets in other words.
Here is the witness statement of artist Diana Halstead, signed at the Whitianga Police Station today.
PS: The truck photos are in daylight because they were taken by John Allen who made the contact phone call to Graeme Sturgeon, but the trucks didn’t move until dark – as it was obviously a clandestine operation, and Diana, Wendy and Graeme arrived on dark.
Statement to NZ Police by Diana Halstead
I, Diana Mary Halstead of Te Mata, make this statement that,
On 17 October I was camped with Graeme Sturgeon and Dr Pond in Kaimarama valley waiting to observe the use of aerial poisoning on the Papakai public conservation lands. We had brought posters for a demonstration to alert the public to DOC’s intention to drop 1080 into the Whitianga water supply.
Just on dark a contact phone call came through to the effect that DOC has been loading 1080 in the Whitianga CBD. I followed Graeme Sturgeon’s camper van into town. We turned into a wide alleyway with herringbone parking on the right hand side of a building. I was right behind the campervan with my full night lights on as it was now pitch dark. Graeme turned the corner at the back of the building and came to a sudden stop because in front of him were four enormous trucks. I couldn’t see any trucking company logos on the trucks, nor any of the 1080 warning signs DoC is required to put up.
In front of me there was a half circle of security guards and DOC staff milling around the front of the trucks so I guessed we had come to a DOC warehouse hidden at the back of the Liquor King shops. Suddenly I saw Graeme S being torn from his vehicle and being manhandled in the full blaze of my headlights. I leapt from my car leaving the headlights on and called out, “Graeme, what are they doing to you ?”; Graeme looked disoriented and dishevelled, his clothes torn and his hat which he always wears, not to be seen. There were no signs or barriers anywhere to say he should not have driven round the building. Also there were no signs or barriers to warn the public that there was a dangerous toxin being loaded in the car park. Handling sacks of 1080 pellets always causes dust and the 1080 dust is poisonous when breathed in.
The security guard that had mauled Graeme S asked me to move my car. At that point I heard Graeme say, “Diana don’t move your car until the police come.”; The same security guard then stepped into my car to take possession of it, but I was quick enough to put my hand through the open window and remove the keys. I consider his was an action of assault as I was standing beside the car and he was acting against my wishes. He should have waited for the police to decide what he was permitted by law to do.
Then another bearded security man, possibly the driver of the leading truck, stepped forward and said, “If you don’t move your car I will move it with my truck.”; I knew I was being bullied with the suggestion of aggression if I didn’t comply. I asked the security guard who had mauled Graeme what his name was. He refused to answer. If there is a road accident both parties are required to give each other their names and addresses.
At this point a DOC officer intervened and said, “Diane, please move your car”; but I could hear Wendy saying to wait for the police. As I did not get into my car the DOC officer moved back into the group of security men. Suddenly the trucks seemed to be receding. Looking back down the alleyway to Joan Gaskell Drive I could see the first of the trucks had reached the highway by means of the alley on the north eastern side of the building. By now I had realised the DOC operational headquarters were at the back of the building and the 1080 must have been stored adjacent to the DOC offices.
The three of us decided we would wait for the police. Graeme S rang Whitianga Police Station and was connected to Hamilton and after an hour or so a policeman arrived, but he went straight to talk to the DOC office staff inside the building. We continued to stand in the cold night air. We could hear DOC staff laughing during their police interview. No medical attention was offered to Graeme S even though DOC staff would have had a First Aid
medical kit and a cup of tea in their office.
The next morning at 7 am we set up our banners at the Kaimarama bridge. Others came to join us. We caught the attention of the traffic between Whitianga and Tairua. Motorists waved and tooted. Opposition to aerial poisoning is on the move.
I would like the following charges to be laid by the NZ Police.
1. DOC stored a highly toxic substance in an urban area occupied by food and liquor outlets.
I was told the operation was uncovered by a member of the public while driving round the building and that the smell of 1080 was recognisable, indicating that 1080 is a contaminate carried on the air.
2. DOC used a public space for transfer of dangerous goods. There was no signage on the trucks or in the car park to warn the public that a toxic substance with no known antidote was being handled in the open.
3. A DOC agent assaulted a senior citizen who drove into an area that was known to him as a public parking area. There was no signage stating that the area was closed to the public.
On the contrary it seems DOC wanted the area to look as if it was still an ordinary parking area so as not to alert the public to what was going on there.
Mr Sturgeon was travelling alone and unarmed. Mr Sturgeon made no action which warranted being pulled from his car. He was not addressed. He was not warned of any transgression. His physical ability to withstand a beating was not ascertained. He was literally dragged from his vehicle, as his ripped clothes testify. If my night headlights had not been shining on the scene and if I hadn’t called out, I think Mr Sturgeon would have been beaten up even more. These are actions which our media attributes to terrorists and mafia gangsters.
4. There was no reprimand from the DOC managers when the security guard under their supervision committed an unprovoked assault by beating up Mr Sturgeon. DOC managers did not provide Mr Sturgeon with medical assistance.
5. A DOC agent had committed an assault on a senior citizen but DOC managers allowed the agent to leave the scene before the police arrived and without providing his identity when asked.
6. DOC managers left the scene without calling a doctor to examine Mr Sturgeon.
7. Also I wish to challenge these actions by Department of Conservation, Hauraki Office :
DOC managers did not apologise to Mr Sturgeon for the assault, leaving the impression that they condone the use of violence.
DOC managers did not provide Mr Sturgeon with first aid even though a first aid kit must have been held in the DOC office. They did not even bring Mr Sturgeon a cup of tea.
If DOC’s actions were lawful, why were thy conducted after dark and why did staff react with excessive aggression against three elderly people all over 70 who entered a public car park. The men seemed jumpy. I believe we were witnesses to a criminal activity. If this had been a bona fide activity there would have been no cause for the alarm they showed when three senior citizens arrived on the scene.
I request that I am given the name of the DOC security guard who tried to take possession of my car. He knows who I am and I have a right to know who he is. If he was doing an honourable job, would he want to keep his name hidden?
I request a copy of DOC’s explanation for why they beat up Mr Sturgeon.
In 2013 I was one of the artists who demonstrated against the poisoning of Moehau’s public conservation land. The NZ Police guards shared their lunch with us. In 2017 the DOC managers removed public consultation from the process; used violence against intelligent public commentators; and conducted aerial poisoning in the style of a military operation.