By Eric Frykberg
A crackdown on illegal mining has landed six gold prospectors in hot water.
All of them have been put out of business in Westland and Southland, and prosecutions are following in two of the six cases.
This results from a new policy from New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals, which brings to an end decades of turning a blind eye to people helping themselves to the property of other people or companies and of the state.
The Crown agency has appointed a former police officer to do its checking for it.
Its national manager for minerals, Ilana Miller, said illegal miners exploited the efforts of legitimate mining companies that had spent time and money on getting approvals to hunt for gold.
Those companies would find their work was being taken advantage of by opportunistic neighbours sneaking onto their claim area.
"The [illegal miners] were either operating on conservation land or in areas where people already had appropriate consents and permissions in place," she said.
"These individuals were going in there and taking advantage without the appropriate consents and permissions."