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Hunters want deer seen as game animals, not pests

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Kate Wilkinson
Kate Wilkinson

Wellington, June 23 NZPA - Hunting lobbyists have hailed a new report advising the Government on how to set up a Game Animal Council which they hope will change perceptions of feral deer from noxious pests to potentially valuable prey.

Hunters want the legal status of wild deer, pigs, tahr, and chamois changed to "game animals".

Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson said today the Government would announce a formal response by September to the recommendations from a steering group.

United Future party leader Peter Dunne said the report brought a council one step closer for the "long-neglected" recreational hunting community.

"These large game animals deserve responsible management as valued introduced species rather than just the pests they are currently considered to be," he said.

There is scientific evidence that feral pests at any stocking density damaged ecosystems and the biodiversity of native plants and animals, and the Department of Conservation (DOC) has previously refused to give priority to hunter interests over indigenous biodiversity.

But hunting lobbyists have argued that feral deer and pigs have a rightful place in New Zealand, and have been supported by United Future, which was allied to a hunting, shooting, and fishing party, Outdoor Recreation, until 2006.

Today's report detailed the stripping of hunting regulation from DOC, and creation of a national user-management body to represent interests of hunters and game animal managers, and to regulate the "game animal resource".

The council of 17, including an independent chair would represent government, private and commercial hunters, iwi, farmers, game estate operators, hunting guides, and the meat and sporting industries. It would cost about $650,000 a year, including salaries, offices and travel.

The steering committee making the recommendations wants "a clear separation" between the council and areas and species managed by DOC so that game animals could provide "additional benefits" to registered hunters paying an annual fee.

The council would take over issue of hunting permits, hunting ballots and control programmes, though a basic permit for recreational hunting on public conservation land would still be free.

DOC would retain rights in places given priority for conservation purposes only, but the game council would manage deer, chamois, tahr and wild pigs outside those areas, and would also manage the environmental impact of the pests.

New Zealand Deerstalkers' Association President Alec McIver said the report was "timely" and would be endorsed by his organisation's 51 branches, which saw the proposed council as a huge step forward.

The report will be discussed at the NZDA annual meeting in Palmerston North next month.

But an environmental lobby, Forest and Bird said the proposed council was unbalanced, and its management of the animals would damage forests and plants on public conservation land.

"The proposal is incompatible with New Zealand's conservation laws and international commitments, which put protection of our native plants and animals first," the organisation's conservation advocate Quentin Duthie said.

"If we want healthy forests and tussocklands, then DOC, not hunters with vested interests, must continue to manage pest animals and hunting activity," he said. "The department does a very good job".

"Letting hunters manage pest animals is not in the best interest of hunters, conservation or New Zealanders.

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