Wānaka Sun       

High Court decision gives heart to local hunting guides

Posted at 6:00am Thursday 16 Jul, 2020 | By Pat Deavoll editor@thewanakasun.co.nz

Upper Clutha hunting guides are feeling more positive about their industry after a “landmark” high court decision on the Department of Conservation's (DOC) controversial tahr extermination plan.

The Tahr Foundation had asked the High Court for a judicial review of DOC's plan to exterminate all tahr in national parks and sharply reduce tahr populations in other areas.

The application was heard in the High Court in Wellington last Wednesday, and Justice Dobson released his decision on Friday.

In the decision, Dobson said that DOC was to reconsider proceeding with the 2020-2021 plan after consulting with interests represented by the Foundation and other stakeholders.

Until consultation and a further decision have been completed, DOC could only undertake half of the 250 hours provided for in the 2020-2021 planned cull.

Thar Foundation committee member Gerald Telford of Telford Fishing and Hunting, Hawea, said “the high court ruling has a little bit in it for everybody.

“The department can still go ahead with its plan; it's just been given a little bit of a warning that it needs to follow due process which it hasn't been doing as well as it should have.

“For people like me, having put an affidavit on the Minister of Conservations desk we got their attention.

“We now, hopefully, can get to a situation where we can sit down round the table and get something sorted out that will be long term and to the benefit of everybody.

“About 25 per cent of my business involves tahr. New Zealand is the only place in the world where you can hunt tahr so it's a very strong marketing tool for us to be able to offer something like this. Often it gets tagged onto a stag hunt.”

Tahr Foundation spokesperson Willie Duley said the decision was a “victory for common sense.”

“This is a landmark decision. It recognised the considerable gaps in DOC's process, the lack of consideration for stakeholders affected and will stop the decimation of the tahr herd and save jobs,” he said.

“Just as importantly, Justice Dobson recognised that recreational hunters are legitimate stakeholders and have the right to not only be properly consulted by DOC, but also have their views properly considered.

“DOC tried to ride roughshod over the commercial and recreational hunting sector and their token consultation was a sham.” 

In a press release last Friday  DOC operations director Ben Reddiex said the department was pleased the Judge found DOC successfully refuted all but one of the challenges the NZTF made.

 “We're pleased we can now commence important control work across the tahr management units to protect New Zealand's alpine environment.” 

DOC's annual operational plan identifies how it will implement the statutory Himalayan Thar Control Plan 1993 (HTCP), which sets a maximum population of 10,000 tahr across 706,000 ha of private land, Crown pastoral leases and public conservation land. 

Reddiex said DOC had no plans to eradicate tahr and the department was undertaking a phased approach to meet the objectives of the Control Plan.

“There will continue to be thousands of tahr available for hunting across 425,000 ha of public conservation land, as well as another 133,000 ha of Crown pastoral leases and private land.

“Bull tahr will only be targeted in Aoraki/Mount Cook and Westland Tai Poutini National Parks, where DOC legally needs to reduce tahr numbers to the lowest practicable density.”

Duley said public support to stop DOC's cull was “soaring.”

“The petition to stop DOC going ahead with the tahr kill is approaching 50,000 signatures while the Give a Little campaign has raised $135,000.  It shows the depth of feeling there is against this senseless slaughter.” 

Read edition 983 of the Wānaka Sun here.

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