Karamea fossil thieves should be made an example of - Councillor

The hole left in rock at a west coast waterway after a group used a rock saw and chisel to remove a fossil thought to be around 23 million years old. Photo / Supplied

The fossil hunters who hacked out a treasured 23 million-year-old whale fossil near Karamea should be "strung and quartered", a West Coast regional councillor says.

"We've got to set an example of these people, you just can't let these people take the law into their own hands," Cr Frank Dooley said during some colourful commentary at the regional council's Resource Management Committee meeting on Tuesday.

The council has now issued two abatement notices, effectively banning the two fossil perpetrators from removing rock material anywhere in the region.

The whale fossil was cut out of bedrock at the mouth of the Little Wanganui at Labour Weekend, despite locals challenging the offenders' claim that they had "iwi permission".

West Coast iwi have condemned the removal.

Council staff were present when police searched a Granity property last month and recovered some material, in a multi-agency action in response to the Karamea fossil incident.

Consents and compliance manager Colin Helem explained the reasoning behind the two abatement notices.

"The main reason is they've admitted having done it previously. There's still inquiries being undertaken."

Cr Dooley said the Little Wanganui perpetrators "should be strung and quartered. He was warned; the locals were down there, they warned him off, but no, he got out his chainsaw or whatever it was and cut the darn thing out."

Cr Ewen said he supported Cr Dooley's sentiment but "like it or not" the council might not be able to go further.

West Coast regional councillor Frank Dooley wants an example to be made out of thieves who stole a 23 million year-old whale fossil. Photo / Supplied

Cr Dooley said he was expressing his views so council management might account for it in an approach to any prosecution.

Cr Mark McIntyre noted the fossil story "headlines" had reverberated far and wide. It was even reported in the New York Times.

Cr Ewen noted the same party had been involved in a similar case previously, at Rapahoe. "He's got form."

Cr Dooley: "If he is a repeat offender, I repeat my comments."

Iwi representative Francois Tumahai said they were working with the fossil remover to have the material returned to the Little Wanganui community early in the New Year.

"I'm all over him, and the other character."

Meanwhile, last month regional council staff were ignored by a man caught taking rock from a protection wall at Serpentine Beach in the coastal marine area near the mouth of the Taramakau River.

After compliance staff left he took the rock anyway.

Cr Dooley said on Tuesday he wanted to know if council staff had the details of the Serpentine offender.

"The offender actually bulls***ed his way out of the situation at the time. We left and then he carried out the offence.

"Taking rock out of a flood protection wall, I think [he] should be strung up ... and made an example of. To me, that's a sin that is unforgivable."

Helem described the Serpentine culprit as someone with a 4x4 vehicle and trailer fitted with a winch.

"Given his dues, his removal of stone is probably close to a tonne, on his own. We know where the stone is sitting at the moment."

Staff had his vehicle registration detail. Cr Dooley said he believed the council should be taking it further.

"This is a theft and it's endangering our community. If someone is going to interfere with a floodwall, that floodwall is put up for a reason, that is protecting our community."

Helem said no decision had been made on the Serpentine incident yet. "It's probably more an infringement notice and education."

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