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Ensuring the future of hunting in New Zealand

By Darrin Tunnicliffe-Smith

The future of hunting in New Zealand is currently in the balance - we can go one of two ways. We can continue as we are and let it decline into memory or we can act and ensure hunting benefits New Zealand, our herds improve and hunting here is seen as an adventure to have.

 

Have you ever noticed the range of reactions you get when someone asks what you did in the weekend and you mention you spent it out in the bush hunting?

 

Depending on where you are in the country some people will look at you quite differently. Why? Well, it is because hunting has become less common in this country as the urbanisation of our population continues.

 

“What we need to do is look at hunting in New Zealand and how it can be made to benefit the country as a whole, in this way non hunters can see the value in embracing hunting within New Zealand’s culture.”

 

Many New Zealanders are now well separated from where their food comes from, they never see firearms except in the media - which normally shows them in a negative light, and the idea of killing an animal for food is completely alien to them.

  

A large proportion of “townies” do not understand the need for firearms. They can’t comprehend pest control needs in the country and would never consider hunting on the weekend when there’s a well-stocked supermarket just down the road.

 

Alongside the urbanised population are those parties or organisations who classify all game animals in New Zealand as pests of no value and would like to see them eradicated.

 

To many New Zealanders, the New Zealand back country is nothing more than a blue haze seen from the inside of a car. To hunters and outdoorspeople, it is a way of life.

 

Our forests are poisoned regularly, aerial and ground-based culls are deployed to wipe out herds ignoring the wasted resource we should be embracing in a controlled manor.

 

Hunters are seen as an insignificant minority and by lack of organisation, or perhaps a mindset that has been unwilling to change we have been divided which makes us easy to sweep aside.

 

What we need to do is look at hunting in New Zealand and how it can be made to benefit the country as a whole, in this way non hunters can see the value in embracing hunting within New Zealand’s culture.


HUNTING TOURISM

Right now, tourism is in tatters, the world is in an unprecedented state with lock downs and closed borders. There are ministers and business leaders meeting to find solutions and plan a relaunch for when the borders of the world reopen.

 

Already Tourism Minister Nash is indicating a plan to stop attracting “cheap” tourism such as back packers and to target the wealthy and high dollar tourist to aid our economy.

 

This is a golden opportunity to embrace hunting tourism. We need to rewrite the rule book for hunting tourist to better protect our resources, and our industry in New Zealand.

 

New Zealand has some of the best hunting and tourism operators in the world. Utilising their experience and expertise to introduce tourists into the outdoors and what it has to offer would pay dividends to a currently struggling, tourism sector.

 

If we looked around the world at some of the pinnacle hunting tourist locations, we could take some of ideas and capitalise on the New Zealand experience. Now is an opportunity that will not come again where we can set the standard, create jobs, and support a genuine hunting industry in New Zealand.

 

We can leverage the game animals we have (7 species of deer, pigs, tahr, chamois, goats, wild sheep, wallabies, and game birds) the breath-taking natural landscape and local knowledge to invite in the wealthy global hunters who will help our economy recover and grow.

 

“This is a golden opportunity to embrace hunting tourism. We need to rewrite the rule book for hunting tourist to better protect our resources, and our industry in New Zealand.”

 

Global hunting tourists tend to be high income visitors who also spend a lot of money on accommodation, dining, and other activities whilst they are here helping stimulate our many sectors.

 

Some of the things I believe we need to do immediately before the borders open include:

 

Tourist hunting Firearms licence: A suitable fee must be charged, appropriate vetting required with cross communication with their home country and their local firearms licence or police record. This is a safety measure and should replicate New Zealand Firearms licence holders’ requirements.

 

Tourist requirement to hunt with either a registered guide whilst in New Zealand or a resident family member/friend who is a firearms licence holder and supervisor (public or private land).

 

This would help create/stimulate hunting guide jobs and businesses, whilst allowing friends and family to hunt together as normal - these rules apply in Alaska and work well.

 

“If we looked around the world at some of the pinnacle hunting tourist locations, we could take some of ideas and capitalise on the New Zealand experience. Now is an opportunity that will not come again where we can set the standard, create jobs, and support a genuine hunting industry in New Zealand.”

 

Non-resident hunting tags: Based on the American system but for tourist only, tourist must purchase tags in advance for the animals they wish to hunt (including private hunting estates). These tags would specify species and gender and would have a timeframe.

 

Tags would help with animal management as only those tags made available for sale can be shot, one tag per animal unless specified. No female tags available during fawning, male deer only available during hard antler season, goat, wallaby, and pig tags open limit etc.

 

The money collected from these tags must be specifically legislated to go entirely to hunting resource management only. Require tourist hunters to take out medical insurance to remove any injuries from the public health departments funding.

 

We all know there is increased risk whilst out hunting and the general public health fund doesn’t need to fund tourism. Require a PLB, and first aid kit to be carried - search and rescue is expensive.

 

With these steps in place hunting as a tourist attraction in New Zealand would become a self-sustaining industry that not only funds itself and contributes to our conservation efforts but also creates jobs and embraces the natural NZ image we sell to the world.

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Some simple safety requirements such as PLB’s, guides and insurance would mitigate risks such as search and rescue or health care expenses if incidents occur.

 

This could all be put in place with minimal expense for a great gain that would help protect hunting into the future and encourage more people to experience the New Zealand adventure.

 

HUNTERS INVESTING IN HUNTING

We as hunters need to invest in hunting. Invest in the resource and its protection because it is important to our lifestyle. There are different ways we could do this; an annual hunting licence is one way.

 

Hunting licences would add an administrative cost and rely on compliance of individuals. Judging by the reactions to this when I have seen it suggested online, there is a very large opposition to it based on a perceived right to hunt, the cost, or a perception that DOC are wiping out game animals so why put money in their coffers?

 

Instead of a licence to opt in perhaps the best way could be copied from American hunters. In the US there is an 11% tax on firearms/ammunition and archery products that is mandated to only be spent to benefit hunting through conservation - this includes animal management, land acquisition to increase habitat, hunter education programs and maintaining some training ranges.

 

“Would you be willing to spend an extra 10% on ammunition to protect your lifestyle, with the guarantee that the money can only benefit hunting?”

 

In the US this has been the backbone of their conservation funding for years funding things that would otherwise never happen.

 

Would you be willing to spend an extra 10% on ammunition to protect your lifestyle, with the guarantee that the money can only benefit hunting?

 

MINISTER FOR HUNTING

Now that we are aiming to transform hunting into an industry that could be significant to New Zealand’s recovery - who represents hunting in parliament?

 

The minister of conservations office is often at odds with hunters with regards to 1080, and mass culling of our game animals. The minster for sport doesn’t fit the bill - hunting as a sport is far removed from any other sports in the portfolio and doesn’t receive any sport NZ funding.

 

A new government portfolio for a minister for hunting who would work alongside the ministers for conservation, environment, tourism, and police would provide a minister to guide the government direction around these policy and law changes.

 

The minister could oversee the collection of funds from tourist as well as a hunter’s excise tax that must then been spent on programs proven to improve our hunting resources and assets, land access, herd management, and safety programs. This would give clear representation for hunters in parliament - something that is currently lacking.

 

GAME ANIMAL HERDS

New Zealand needs to remove the pest classification from our game animals, they should instead be classified purely as public game animals and allow for their control, not their eradication.

 

Any feral animals on private land are still public game animals - however that does not give the public access to hunt them without permission, and where applicable landowners may cull animals to protect their farms etc.

 

Game animals should be reclassified as public game animals and considered a resource. 

 

Identifying herds of significance, and desirable population densities across game species and their ranges would allow for targeted control on public land.

  

If a species increases the size of its range without exceeding population density it should not be targeted for eradication - especially when human pressure may cause the range to alter over time.

 

“New Zealand needs to remove the pest classification from our game animals, they should instead be classified purely as public game animals and allow for their control, not their eradication.”

 

Funding now made available through the above-mentioned tax could be used to conduct animal density surveys, if an area is becoming overly dense this information can be shared with the hunting community to concentrate on the area.

 

Adopting an animal harvest app in place of the current DOC permits to show the numbers taken by hunters would help monitor animal population control and show the valuable work hunters do to control animals.

 

HUNTING LAWS

Some of our current hunting laws are murky and need clarification - for example thermal optics, are they permitted for use during daylight shooting hours? All hunting rules need to be clear with no room for interpretation - these need to be updated by experts in the field.

 

Looking overseas some additional laws around harvesting animals would improve the image of hunting and resource management with non-hunting members of the public.

 

In the US, most states have wanton wastage laws that require you to pack out the majority of useable meat - as a minimum this is the four quarters and loins. Alaska requires all usable meat to be packed out.

 

This should be welcomed into New Zealand law as it demonstrates a respect for the game animals, a commitment to use the resource well and helps with the public image of trophy hunters just taking heads, instead reinforces hunting as food gathering first and foremost.

 

Poaching, spot lighting or thermal/night vision hunting on public land after dark is illegal for good reason - in the past several people have been shot at night. Despite the risks this happens a lot and needs to be stopped, unfortunately we do not seem to have any type of park ranger presence in New Zealand.

 

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We currently are required to gain DOC permits online for hunting private land in New Zealand, however I have never encountered a DOC ranger out monitoring hunting - whilst it is not practical to monitor everywhere all the time some presence should be seen to enforce laws and same as fishery officers etc.

 

JOIN AN ORGANISATION

There are several organisations that advocate for hunters and firearms licence holders – some of these have active programs to help with game animal management and protecting hunting.

 

These organisations need members to gain funding and make a difference - whilst the ideal situation might be a union of these organisations it is vitally important that we support them and the work they do.

 

These organisations stand up for us time and again - they are at the committee meetings when the government seeks to change laws, they oppose DOC when they want to cull herds and seek the balance that we need to maintain our lifestyles.

 

New Zealand Deer Stalkers Association

 

Council of Licenced Firearms Owners (COLFO)

 

Sporting Shooters of New Zealand (SSANZ)

 

Fiordland Wapiti Foundation

 

New Zealand Tahr Foundation

 

Central North Island Sika Foundation

 

Another raising initiative that is gaining traction is Hunters for Conservation– it’s also an idea that needs all of our support. As hunters we spend more time in nature than most New Zealanders. Hunters have the ability to positively enhance our forest.

 

Along with the basics of packing out any rubbish that enters the bush there is the more involved pest traps and even species reintroduction programs.

 

If we all become guardians of our forests instead of just invading to harvest food, then we will have a stronger resource for the future.

  

RECRUITING NEW HUNTERS

The biggest challenge for all nations is recruiting new hunters. Less people are hunting due to the urbanised lifestyle, access to hunt public land, access to somewhere to learn to shoot, and importantly exposure or the opportunity to get involved.

 

The best way we can protect hunting into the future is to recruit new hunters. We need to welcome and involve anyone who has an interest.

 

The NZDA works tirelessly advocating for your hunting and shooting future.

 

Take your kids out - but also take their friends or your niece/nephew, if a friend asks, take them along. Guys don’t hassle the girls who want to have a go. Guide, and encourage them. Too often girls are turned away by guys attitudes. If a novice or newbie asks you for some advice, help them out.

 

“The best way we can protect hunting into the future is to recruit new hunters. We need to welcome and involve anyone who has an interest.”

 

For some you might give them a lifelong passion, for others a sense of achievement or an appreciation of nature. Some newbies might hate it, and that’s OK. But, they can say they tried it in a positive way and might appreciate a little more why we do it, and that is better for all of us.

  

THE KNIFE EDGE

Right now, we have an opportunity to make hunting better for all of us, lets embrace hunting tourism but let’s not give it away for free. Let’s change the way we think about hunting - shoot the hind to control numbers, maybe leave that spiker to grow.

 

Let’s pack out all the meat, maybe that means learning better field butchery - if you don’t eat it all give some away especially to nonhunters who will suddenly have a greater appreciation for hunting.

 

“Don’t worry so much about losing your spot, worry more about hunting disappearing from New Zealand all together because that’s a very real risk.”

 

Take your daughter out hunting, not just your son. Invest in your lifestyle and be happy to share it with others, that way you can continue to enjoy it.

 

Don’t worry so much about losing your spot, worry more about hunting disappearing from New Zealand all together because that’s a very real risk.

 

Darrin

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