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Forest & Bird and the Fiordland Wapiti Foundation have agreed to pause legal proceedings over the management agreement between DOC and the Foundation over how the wapiti herd is managed.  

Forest & Bird earlier asked for a judicial review of the management agreement between DOC and Fiordland Wapiti Foundation, which allows the Wapiti Foundation to control deer numbers, manage a wapiti herd, and carry out other pest-control and conservation work in Fiordland National Park. 

The parties have now asked the High Court to temporarily adjourn the proceedings until a later date. 

The pause will allow the parties and DOC to investigate a way of managing wapiti which meets both organisations’ interests.  

The wapiti management agreement will remain in force during the adjournment. 

Forest & Bird and the Wapiti Foundation are pleased with the pause on legal action. 

“Forest & Bird welcomes the opportunity to work with the Wapiti Foundation and DOC on this critical issue,” Forest & Bird Chief Executive Nicola Toki said. 

“There have been inaccurate suggestions that Forest & Bird’s legal action is aimed at exterminating wapiti, with some speculation the judicial review could even mean the end for all game animals,” Ms Toki said.  

“I want to be clear that these suggestions are incorrect. Forest & Bird initiated the legal action to clarify the legality of the wapiti management agreement. 

“Rather than going to court, we now want to discuss the issue with the Fiordland Wapiti Foundation and DOC to agree on a solution that protects our precious native biodiversity and maintains the integrity of Fiordland National Park.  

“We don’t believe that the solution would require the extermination of wapiti. We expect the herd will continue to provide an important hunting opportunity and the Fiordland Wapiti Foundation could continue its valuable conservation work,“ said Ms Toki.  

Both organisations agree that the adjournment will also allow them to explore other solutions, including the possibility of designating the wapiti herd as a Herd of Special interest as defined under the Game Animal Council Act 2013. 

Wapiti Foundation spokesman Roy Sloan says the decision to pause legal action is good news. 

“The Wapiti Foundation stands for conservation and hunting and it would be disappointing for two conservation groups to end up in court arguing over who has the best solution to protecting our precious environment. 

“A judicial review would waste Forest & Bird's, the Wapiti Foundation’s and DOC’s money and time, diverting funding and key personnel from the front line where all three organisations are doing much needed conservation work,” Mr Sloan said. 

“The Foundation’s work is a great example of hunters giving back to conservation and the wider community.    

“What we do in Fiordland has proven the most effective way of reducing and managing deer numbers, as well as trapping predators and maintaining tracks and huts for all park visitors. 

“This is both protecting Fiordland’s ecosystem and saving DOC significant amounts of money, which is important when the department is facing hefty budget cuts and hundreds of job cuts. 

“We look forward to finding a solution that not only meets the needs of both organisations, but more importantly, safeguards our precious wildlife and flora,” Mr Sloan said. 

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