Rabbits and firearms safety on the road

It’s a common complaint that there are too many rabbits around Waikawa Beach. They damage gardens, dig holes in the grass and also chomp their way through spinifex and pīngao on the dunes.

Some local farmers shoot the rabbits on their own properties.

Earlier in March though a member of the local community contacted us with a concern about a practice called spotlighting where people drive around in a vehicle equipped with a spotlight and then shoot rabbits from the vehicle.

One Saturday night at around 11.30 our correspondent saw:

…a truck/ute with men standing on the back and the spotlight on the roof. They were parked…

There was some alarm at the possibility of folks driving around at night on the roads of Waikawa Beach shooting at spotlit animal targets. The chance of stray bullets harming pets or people or property is quite a worry.

Note: if you have the permission of the landowner you can ‘spotlight’ on private property.

We contacted Firearms Licensing, Central District HQ to get an official response on this topic. They referred us to the Arms Code 2013 (2 MB PDF), and also responded:

With regards to your questions:

Question: a] is ‘spotlighting’ as described above by our member illegal? Can you tell me where folks could refer to if they wanted verification (eg the name of the Act and which portion)?

Answer: While there is not a particular part of the Arms Act that refers to where it is illegal to spotlight there are references to safety and responsible use. Rule 3. Paragraph 1. Load a firearm only when ready to fire. Rule 5 Paragraph 4. Night Shooting is dangerous….

Section 5a) It is Illegal to carry or use a loaded firearm in a vehicle. The highlighted paragraph at the end of PG 47. PG48 Car You can not drive a vehicle on the road with a loaded firearm. This includes the magazine this must be empty.

Under Offences/General Carrying a firearm that is loaded (whether in its breech, barrel, chamber or magazine) on or on a motor vehicle on a road or any place to which members of the public have right of access. This is considered an offence.

Question: b] what should folks here do if they believe ‘spotlighting’ is taking place nearby?

Answer: If there are members of your community that believe that there is spotlighting taking place in your area then calling the Police in the first instance. If a number of you from your community ring then the police will take it more seriously. If it is safe at all try and get a license plate number. From this the Police will be able to get more information. ONLY IF IT IS SAFE!

Question: c] is there any additional information you believe it would be useful for our small beach community to know around firearms, rabbit shooting?

Answer: I have included a link for you to the Arms Code although it appears that you have already gone though it quite thoroughly yourself. I have just added some extra information. Please in all instances where it is not safe then ring the Police. I understand that it take some time for them to come out as stated in your email, but if a number of you lay a complaint and then are ringing as soon as the first light is spotted perhaps it will be fixed!!

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