Hunting for fair pest animal rules

09 Sep 2010

Forest & Bird is pressing Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson to ensure conservation is not the loser as she moves closer to a decision on a recommendation that hunters be made responsible for controlling deer, pigs, thar and chamois.

The Game Animal Council Establishment Committee set up by the government as part of its governing agreement with United Future’s Peter Dunne recommended in June that the council representing hunters’ interests be set up to manage the control of these pest animals on publicly-owned conservation land.

Forest & Bird believes the recommendations go beyond the establishment committee’s terms of reference to consider the setting up an advisory body representing hunters’ interests.

The Department of Conservation is currently responsible for managing these introduced pests and hunting on public land. The role of hunting in helping to control these pests is acknowledged, but hunters are only one of the groups with a stake in the issue.

Forest & Bird has written to Ms Wilkinson - who has said she expects to make a decision this month - to point out a Game Animal Council would put hunters interests above conservation. The attempt to redefine deer, pigs, chamois and tahr as ‘game’ rather than ‘pests’ flies in the face of decades of scientific evidence showing the considerable ecological damage these animals cause.

Giving the council responsibility for controlling these animals would damage conservation efforts, undermine conservation law and be inefficient. Concentrating the power for control of these pests with hunters would be unfair to other sectors including conservation, recreation, tourism, agriculture and forestry.

It would also undermine efforts to encourage a collaborative approach in government policy, and diminish attempts to promote private involvement in conservation and the “100% Pure New Zealand” international branding.

Forest & Bird could accept a Game Animal Council that had a role in co-ordination, education and advice on behalf of hunters and, if necessary, a role in advocacy for hunters’ interests, but it should be a non-governmental organisation, rather than a statutory body.