A man has narrowly escaped prosecution after illegally digging a pond in wetland but being found out when the digger got stuck.
The man was building the pond next to his maimai to use for duck shooting near Waitakaruru on the Hauraki Plains in February, when a borrowed digger got stuck in the wetland.
When the Waikato Regional Council were called to the site after a complaint, they found the digger was nearly fully submerged in a large hole, surrounded by piles of excavated marine mud.
The man initially claimed that he was using the digger only to remove leftover building materials from his maimai, but the Council's investigation found that he was digging a pond for the up-coming duck shooting season.
The damage to the environment was compounded by the man then using other heavy machines and equipment on site to help extract the stuck digger.
The area was part of an internationally significant wetland that extended along the shoreline of the Firth of Thames between Miranda and Thames, and was also one the country's most important coastal stretches for shorebirds.
The council has issued the man two formal warnings.
Investigations manager Patrick Lynch said human activity was the biggest threat to wetland and people simply could not go in there with 20-tonne diggers, which destroyed habitats.
Mr Lynch said it was concerning that this case followed a similar incident north of Waitakaruru in 2013 when a farmer also received a formal warning for digging a duck pond.
Mr Lynch said the council set a high-threshold for prosecutions and this case, although serious, did not not meet the criteria.
However, he said the council was signalling that this type of incident would not be tolerated and a prosecution was more than likely if there was a similar incident.
"The council receives 1400-1500 compliants a year and it can't prosecute them all, nor should it." he said.