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Three Queenstown trail-bike riders were convicted yesterday for damaging the Routeburn Track in Fiordland and Mount Aspiring National Parks by riding the track's entire 32km length.
In the Queenstown District Court, Clifford Michael Baker (32), mechanic, Ashley David Cameron (30), jet-boat driver, and Steven Alan Eakin (48), mechanic, admitted one count each of reckless damage to property and two counts each of driving a vehicle on a road other than a formed road.
Judge Kevin Phillips remanded the trio for sentence in November.
Department of Conservation lawyer Pene Williams said the three rode their trail bikes overnight on May 11, from The Divide entrance off the Milford Rd, over Harris Saddle, exiting near Glenorchy.
A Doc ranger stationed at Mackenzie Hut was woken by the noise of engines at 1.45am on May 12.
She saw the trio making their way up the Routeburn Track and heard the motorcycles revving as they struggled to get up the "narrow and slippery track surface in the dark".
She then contacted police and Doc staff in Queenstown and Glenorchy and the three men were apprehended about 7am, but not before they had tried to evade staff by "gunning it" as rangers shone torches at them and shouted at them to stop at a swing bridge at the Routeburn end of the track.
Cameron was grabbed by the arm by a ranger as he sped past, almost falling from his bike.
In a press statement released yesterday, Doc Wakatipu programme manager John Roberts said trail-bike damage to off-road areas of public conservation land had occurred at a number of other places in the Wakatipu.
"Restoration at these sites can take decades, as the scars left by wheels quickly become watercourses that further erode hillsides," he said.
He said an annual joint police/Doc sting operation at Macetown and Skippers had resulted in the prosecution of eight people in 2008 and a reduction in damage during the past two years.