DOC has confirmed that two DOC staff were killed in a helicopter crash in Wanaka this morning.
The helicopter was on its way to undertake tahr control in the Haast area when it crashed, also killing the pilot. The pilot is reported to be Nick Wallis, whose brother Matthew was killed in a helicopter crash in Lake Wanaka less than three months ago.
DOC director general Lou Sanson said he was devastated by the news and knew all of those killed.
“This is a tragedy for our staff who are like family and are passionate about the work they do,” Sanson said.
Sanson is on his way to the region this afternoon.
“We are still trying to come to terms with this morning’s tragedy. Our hearts go out to the families of the DOC workers involved.”
The department said it would be liaising closely with the police and would not be commenting further at this stage.
The tahr control operation has been put on hold.
The tahr control programme, which was set to start today, was heavily opposed by hunting lobby groups. This week, DOC announced it was scaling back its proposed control efforts.
Last month, the department proposed culling 17,000 tahr over the next 10 months, but has now reduced the target by 7000.
A recent survey found the tahr population on conservation land was estimated at 35,000, more than triple the 10,000 animal limit that DOC is required to adhere to under its tahr control plan.
The mountain goats, native to the Himalaya, cause significant damage to alpine plants.
The plan is expected to cost $600,000, double DOC’s annual budget for tahr control.