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Deer Policy For Public Conservation Land Released

The Minister of Conservation, Hon Sandra Lee, has announced the permit system to hunt deer on public conservation land will be streamlined and unnecessary restrictions on recreational hunting removed, as one of the key elements in a policy statement on deer.

Ms Lee today released the Department of Conservation Policy Statement on Deer Control. It focuses on deer primarily as a serious conservation pest but also takes account of the needs of recreational and commercial hunters and of the deer farming and game estate industries.

"The Labour-Alliance coalition's approach to the management of deer on public conservation land has been guided by the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy which seeks to halt the loss of our indigenous plants and animals and promote their restoration," Ms Lee said.

She says the policy's over-riding goal for deer control is "to reduce the impacts of deer, along with other threats, on public conservation lands so as to maintain and enhance forest regeneration and indigenous ecosystem protection."

"The government wants to make it easier in future for both recreational and commercial hunters to hunt deer on public conservation land because there is clear scientific evidence the animals pose an on-going threat to our native forests and grassland ecosystems," she said.

"Deer hunting is a popular recreational activity that introduces many people to the outdoors. Recreational hunting will be encouraged, but deer numbers will not be maintained at levels that cause severe and long lasting forest damage just to provide easy hunting. Opportunities to hunt will nevertheless remain plentiful on public conservation land."

Ms Lee said the Deer Control policy signalled a move away from single species plans towards a more integrated approach to pest control, with decisions on deer eventually being made alongside initiatives to control possums, goats and other threats.

"The Department of Conservation's priorities form deer control will be to eradicate new and isolated populations, such as those in Northland and Taranaki, which have historically been deer-free, and to control deer to low levels on priority sites."

"Under the policy," Ms Lee said, "the Department of Conservation will encourage Regional Councils to include deer in their Regional Pest Management Strategies particularly in areas historically free of the animals."

The Conservation Minister said DOC would also work with deer farmers to reduce the risk of farmed deer escaping and forming new wild populations. She said new regulated and non-regulated areas for deer farming and associated fencing standards would be gazetted following consultation.

Ms Lee said no changes were currently planned for requirements for holding deer and other wild animals in game estates.

Summary of the Department of Conservation Policy Statement on Deer Control

Key Points

Goal: To reduce the impacts of deer, along with other threats, on public conservation lands so as to maintain and enhance forest regeneration and indigenous ecosystem protection.

Scope of Statement: The statement applies primarily to deer control on public conservation lands but also includes actions to restrict the feral range of deer, which will occur across all lands.

Priority Outcomes for Deer Control: The feral range of deer, or species of deer, should not be allowed to expand into new areas, including deer-free regions, catchments and islands, and where possible the existing feral range should be reduced.

Natural habitats and ecosystems will be maintained in, or restored to, an indigenous natural character, through effective control of deer and other threats.

Hunting: The Department recognises that commercial and recreational hunters value deer as a hunting resource and that commercial hunting in particular provides effective control in those areas that are most suitable for hunting by helicopter. Hunting on public conservation lands will be encouraged where this is consistent with management for conservation. Commercial and recreational hunters will generally have open access to public conservation lands.

Recreational hunters kill large numbers of deer in total each year but generally cannot kill deer faster than they can reproduce. Recreational hunting is not able to reduce deer densities to low enough levels to allow regeneration of palatable seedlings and saplings. The Department sees no need to set up new areas to be managed for recreational hunting. It will not seek to devolve the issuing of hunting permits to a hunter organisation.

The existing hunting permit system will be streamlined and where appropriate will move to longer-term area wide permits. The option of removing the requirement for written hunting permits for deer entirely will be explored. This would require legislative change.

Deer Farming and Game Estates: The department will work with deer farmers to reduce the risks of deer escaping and establishing new populations. No changes are currently planned to areas where farming of deer is generally prohibited. Nor are any changes planned for requirements for holding deer and other wild animals in game estates (safari parks).

Working with Regional Councils: Regional councils will be encouraged to include deer in Regional Pest Management Strategies particularly in deer-free areas

Copies of the full policy statement are available from Sue McCabe, Department of Conservation Head Office, 04 471 3117 or 025 846 810 or smccabe@doc.govt.nz

27 February 2001

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