On safari in a national park near you

10 Nov 2009

By Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell & Field Officer Sue Maturin  

Hunters are gearing up to turn public conservation lands into game-hunting and safari parks, thanks to the agreement between the United Future and National. The parties gave the go-head to a select group of hunting interests to provide advice on the establishment of a big game hunting council as a statutory authority to advocate for hunters’ interests and manage deer, chamois, thar and pigs.

The establishment committee is recommending overturning the current legislative focus on controlling and eradicating wild animals in our national parks, world heritage areas and on public conservation lands. Instead, the animals would get legal status as game animals and a Fish & Game-styled, New Zealand Game Animal Council (NZGAC) would be set up to manage wild animals primarily for their recreation, commercial and tourism values on public conservation land.

This is a huge retrograde step, which would give game animal status to these pests, and would make it even harder to protect indigenous biodiversity. DOC would have to waste precious resources every time they needed to control animal populations because DOC would have to prove that animal numbers needed better controlling. Hunters invariably deny that deer have bad impacts and don’t therefore don’t need controlling. It is a sure recipe for increased conflict.

Hunters are vigorously opposed to aerial 1080, and their protests and other activities already make it difficult for DOC and the Animal Health Board to do large-scale 1080 operations. Many hunters are also passionate about keeping commercial wild animal control operators out of their favourite hunting areas. Aerial deer recovery has proved to be one of the best tools for controlling deer populations.

The proposed NZGAC would have staff and offices in Wellington costing a predicted $850,000 a year. It would also have staff around the country to carry out its proposed management of hunters and animals, but the likely cost of this is not given.

It is proposed that the NZGAC be self funded through licences and sales levies and fees on services related to hunting, as well as taxpayer contributions. However, there is an alarming parallel with the New South Wales situation, where a Game Council was established in 2002, on a promise of being self funding. Instead, it sucks up millions of dollars of public money - $3.5 million last year and a further $2.8 million is expected this year. Essentially taxpayers paid about $400 for each hunter to enjoy their sport. There is now a public campaign to get rid of the NSW Game Council.

There is no need for a statutory-based game council in New Zealand. Hunters enjoy free access to nearly all public conservation lands, safari hunting opportunities are available on private land and DOC already provides most of the services being suggested for the proposed NZGAC.

Public submissions are sought on the document Options for Establishment of the New Zealand Game Animal Council by November 23. The document is available on line at www.gameanimalcouncil.org.nz or from PO Box 12-099, Beckenham, Christchurch 8242. Submissions can also be sent to the same address or mail@gameanimalcouncil.org.nz

We suggest that instead of writing submissions, which will only go to a group of vested interest people, it would be better to write directly to the Prime Minister; The Hon John Key; j.key@ministers.govt.nz, and the Minister of Conservation: The Hon Kate Wilkinson; kate.wilkinson@parliament.govt.nz, or send a free handwritten letter to them at Parliament Buildings, PB 18,8888, Wellington 6160.