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DOC confiscates tourist's drone after frustrated hikers nail it with a stone

The Department of Conservation (DOC) says it has confiscated a tourist's drone after they were caught out flying it in the Tongariro National Park.

A 'no drone' sign at Tongariro National Park. Source: Department of Conservation

In a statement today, DOC said the drone's operator had ignored signs in the park clearly stating that drones were not allowed, and had flown it anyway.

But as the operator flew the device over a group of hikers, they picked up stones and threw them at it, with one of them scoring a direct hit.

The drone crash landed soon afterwards, and a DOC ranger found it near Emerald Lakes and waited for the operator to come and retrieve it, but they never did.

The next day, the tourist asked at the Whakapapa visitor centre about his drone, trying to get it back, but was refused and left the country soon after.

DOC Tongariro Operations Manager Connie Norgate said there are good reasons why drones aren't allowed in that area.

"With helicopter operations taking place almost daily, drone use puts these aircraft and their pilots at risk," Mr Norgate said.

"This incident also shows how they disturb other people’s privacy and quiet enjoyment of the outdoors.

"We regularly hear about near misses between drones and other aircraft around the country, and we remind drone owners that they are putting other people’s lives at risk when flying without a permit."

DOC said that anyone who sees a drone in Tongariro National Park should report it to the Visitor centre by phoning 07 892 3729, or by emailing tongarirovc@doc.govt.nz.

Civil Aviation Authority regulations require operators of drones to obtain consent to fly over any property and if flying over public conservation land operators must obtain a permit from the Department of Conservation.