Hunters question Doc on tahr plans

Mountain tahr have become a major threat to ecosystems in alpine areas, the Department of...
Mountain tahr have become a major threat to ecosystems in alpine areas, the Department of Conservation says. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
The Department of Conservation is in the gun again over the way it is consulting hunters.

Last week, the Tahr Foundation described as "a sham" Doc’s consultation over plans to eradicate tahr from two South Island National Parks.

And, on Saturday, newly appointed New Zealand Deerstalkers Association chief executive Gwyn Thurlow was unimpressed his organisation had no information about work being done by Doc on deer.

Doc director threats Amber Bill told the Otago Daily Times on Friday Doc had "some work under way to improve management of deer in New Zealand".

"We are currently building the evidence base to inform discussions and planning and working to confirm status and issues across the country with treaty partner and all interested parties."

Ms Bill said there would be "extensive early engagement".

Mr Thurlow said he was unaware of what Doc was doing.

"We have not been engaged on any potential nationwide deer programme officially with Doc.

"We would like to be involved if they were doing that, and would have expected we would have already been involved."

Mr Thurlow said deerstalkers knew their local parks and public land areas and "generally had a better idea of what was happening locally than in some cases what Doc do, because of their budget constraints.

"Deerstalkers are out in the hills every weekend, so we have a good handle on what is happening around New Zealand.

"We’ve got the most boots, and the most eyes, on the ground in our forests."

Ms Bill had been asked to respond to a claim by Tahr Foundation chairman Snow Hewetson that once Doc had eradicated tahr from the Aoraki/Mount Cook and Westland Tai Poutini National Parks, deer would be next.

"There is no basis for claims that the approach taken for managing tahr is going to [be] replicated for deer or any other introduced species for that matter," Ms Bill said when questioned.

"With respect to deer, Doc recognises that deer have an important social, cultural, economic and subsistence value in Aotearoa."

In the meantime the campaign to stop the Department of Conservation exterminating tahr in national parks has increased its public support.

Tahr Foundation spokesman Willie Duley said nearly 40,000 people had signed a petition calling for a halt to Doc’s plans.

The Change.org petition was started last Monday evening, shortly after revelations the Department of Conservation was planning a mass killing of thousands of tahr through the Southern Alps, including all animals in national parks.

The petition asks Doc “to halt the 2020-21 tahr cull and review the Himalayan Tahr Control Plan.”

Mr Duley said the public was also contributing significantly to the Give A Little campaign to raise funds to fight the Doc plan, and nearly $70,000 had been raised so far.

The High Court will this week hear a Tahr Foundation application for an interim injunction to stop Doc’s mass tahr kill.

The application will be heard on Wednesday in the High Court at Wellington.

— Additional reporting Kerrie Waterworth

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