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Source: Department of Conservation

Got a new drone for Christmas?

Did you know the Civil Aviation Authority classify them as an aircraft? This means there are some rules you need to follow. These rules are not there to kill your fun – in fact there are some extremely important reasons behind them that you might be surprised about.

Drones are classed as an aircraft

Legal Facts:

• If you want to fly over publicly owned conservation land for private, commercial or research purposes you need to have authorisation from DOC. This is required under s17ZF of the Conservation Act 1987.

• Local government regulations vary between councils, so don’t assume they will be the same from one part of the country to another.

• You must have permission from the landowner before flying in private land

• There are special rules for flying near airfields and airports. Find out more:

But why do I need a permit from DOC?

Conservation land belongs to all New Zealanders and there are some impacts of drones that we have to think about.

1. Drones really mess with wildlife:

Even though an animal might not appear to be disturbed by your drone, it could be quite stressed. New Zealand native birds evolved with predators attacking from above, so drones naturally freak them out. The noise and shadows/proximity of drones above birds can scare parent birds away from their nest. When DOC recieve a drone concession application, they take into account what wildlife is in the area and if the drone will cause a negative impact on them. If you are granted a permit you still must fly your drone far away from wildlife – that’s at least 50 metres clear of birds, and 150 metres clear of marine mammals.

Stay 150 metres clear of marine mammals

2. You could be offending Mãori cultural values:

Flying and filming/photography over Wahi Tapu (sacred) sites is inappropriate. Part of the DOC drone permit process involves asking hapū and iwi to give their views on the cultural impact. You wouldn’t appreciate someone flying their drone over a place that is sacred to your family – so, getting a permit ensures that you are respecting special cultural places.

3. You could be ruining someone’s holiday:

People go out in nature to enjoy peace and quiet and feel far away from technology. Imagine if you’d just walked 6 hours to the top of a mountain to are finally admiring the view, then someone whips out a loud buzzing drone. Feel the mood and avoid disturbing other’s time in nature.

People go out in nature to enjoy peace and quiet

4. You could be invading someone’s privacy:

Some people don’t want to be filmed. Make sure you get permission before you fly over people or property, whether you have a camera on or not. More on privacy here.

5. You could cause an accident or stop someone from being rescued

Your drone might look harmless but it can have some very serious impacts on safety.

• Other aircraft operating in the airspace are at risk from your drone if you don’t have a permit to be there. This includes emergency service aircraft not being able to take off or land due to unauthorised drones in the area.

• Fire risk, as a result of a crash – the integrity of the drone battery can be compromised after a crash, potentially leading to an explosion and fire. Fires can spread quickly, especially in summer, which can destroy precious habitats and wildlife – and put people in danger.

Drones can pose a risk to safety

So, if you want to use your drone on conservation land – apply for a permit. We are constantly working to make the process easier. Flying your drone with a permit is how we #visitthekiwiway.

Or, leave your drone at home and use your camera and selfie stick to take photos on solid ground. You could even turn off your technology and be present in the moment with nature – it’s great for your wellbeing.

Reporting unauthorised drone use

If you see or experience inappropriate drone use report it to your local DOC office or you can call our emergency hotline 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).