Proposed hunting council bad for native forests

Independent conservation organisation Forest & Bird says a proposed hunting council is unbalanced, and would damage forests and plants on public conservation land.

A proposed “Game Animal Council” would directly manage deer, thar, chamois and pigs on public conservation land solely for hunters. Currently, the Department of Conservation manages these introduced animals to minimise the ecological damage they cause.

The proposal was released today and is being considered by the Minister of Conservation.

“The proposal is incompatible with New Zealand’s conservation laws and international commitments, which put protection of our native plants and animals first,” Forest & Bird conservation advocate Quentin Duthie says. “There is no mandate from the public to change that.

“If we want healthy forests and tussocklands, then the Department of Conservation, not hunters with vested interests, must continue to manage pest animals and hunting activity. The department does a very good job.

“The plan wants to redefine deer, thar, chamois and pigs as ‘game’ because they are good to hunt. However, the fact is that these are pests – introduced animals in the wrong place – that need to be controlled because they damage New Zealand’s forests and cause erosion.

“It would be unbalanced to give hunters greater control over public lands than other groups with equally strong interests in conservation management.

The proposal would also cost New Zealanders more, with taxpayers potentially paying to fund the new organisation and hunters paying a fee to hunt where currently it is free. Mr Duthie says this would primarily benefit elite trophy hunters, not the average New Zealand hunter.

A similar Game Council in New South Wales was supposed to be self-funding, but eight years on it still costs taxpayers there about A$3 million a year, Mr Duthie says.

“Hunting makes an important contribution to controlling pest animals, and we support better co-ordination of hunting advocacy in a similar way to other sectors like tourism, conservation and tramping. But having one sector ruling over others is not fair or balanced.

“We urge the Minister of Conservation to assert common sense: that letting hunters manage pest animals is not in the best interest of hunters, conservation or New Zealanders.”