Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Watch out if you attend a NZ balloon meet.

Looks like you'll get the blame if you fly at a NZ meet and theres a

Pull up the ladder I'm alright.

Ohaupo deer farmers Keith and Kylie West blame hot-air balloons for stock

The Wests farm 400 deer on a 35ha property west of Hamilton, which they said
often experienced balloon fly-overs.

They said noise from the balloons' gas burners frightened stock.

The couple are angry two of their deer were shot this month after they were
spooked by a group of low-flying balloons and escaped.

Two three-month-old weaner deer jumped through a fence and on to a road.
They were not missed until almost a day later. One was found the next day
and the other two days later. Both were shot after it was decided they could
not be recovered safely.

Mrs West estimated the loss at about $3000 including the stock value, fence
damage and search time.

Mrs West said the farm was in the flightpath of nearby Hamilton
International Airport, but aircraft noise overhead did not concern the deer,
which had been born on the property and were used to it.

"Basically the balloons come over and when they get low they light the
burners and they go up," said Mrs West.

Mrs West said she had received no notice of balloon flights and complained
verbally to Hamilton balloon festival organisers but had heard nothing
since. She wanted pilots to avoid the area or pass over at an altitude at
which the burners would not frighten stock.

Kiwi Balloon Company owner Andrew Parker flies the black Hamilton-branded
balloon and believed he may have been flying in the area on the day of the
incident but said visiting overseas pilots were possibly to blame.

Mr Parker said that despite warnings from Balloons over Waikato festival
organisers, overseas balloonists often did not heed advice about flying low
over stock.

"If we see a paddock full of stock we try to fly over them as high as we

Balloonists were well aware of stock issues and tried hard to avoid problems
with farmers, he said. In 10 years' flying he had received only "a handful"
of complaints. If he was aware of any problems from a flight he would
contact farmers afterward.

"We realise that we are landing on their livelihood and we try to maintain a
good relationship with them."

Mr Parker said balloonists were often restricted in their altitude near
Ohaupo because of flights from the nearby airport.

Balloons Over Waikato organisers did not repond to requests for comment.

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