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Game and Forest Foundation meeting - Sutton Speech

Office of Hon Jim Sutton Speech Notes 21 November 2001

Game and Forest Foundation meeting, Wellington

Chairman Tom Williams, ladies and gentlemen: thank you for the invitation to speak with you today.

I welcome your formation of the Game and Forest Foundation, an umbrella organisation made up of the Deerstalkers Association, the Professional Hunting Guides Association, the Deer Farmers Association, the Safari Club International New Zealand chapter, and the Association of Game Estates.

Foundation chairman Tom Williams ? who I know well in his many previous roles - has been reported in the media as saying that to achieve any sort of consensus in changing government policy, the radical elements of your constituent groups have to be cast aside.

He was reported as saying that without the baggage of each individual group, the umbrella foundation would be able to work closely with Government agencies responsible for the laws covering conservation, animal health, primary production, tourism, and trade.

In addition to open, well-managed relationships with those agencies, the foundation plans to reach out to other community groups committed to biodiversity conservation, and the education and media sectors.

I welcome that.

It is easy for lobby groups to get bogged down in entrenched positions which they defend fiercely in a way that so damages their relationships with other parties that they lose any effective lobbying power altogether.

I hope that we can maintain a dialogue even when we don't agree.

And I'm afraid to say that so far, we don't have that much common ground. Quite frankly, the Labour-Alliance Government's policy on deer control is based on ecological realities.

Deer didn't evolve here ? our native environments can't cope with large feral populations. Personally, I believe deer belong on farms, not forests.

As minister of agriculture and trade negotiations, I have a strong interest in controlling bovine TB. This disease, while it does not usually affect humans, has the potential to be used as a non-tariff trade barrier in our key international dairy markets.

Feral deer are a vector for bovine TB spread and their numbers need to be kept down.

Hunters do cull sizeable numbers of deer, but not in high enough quantities in all the problem areas to deliver measurable benefits for conservation or Bovine TB control. There is a need, from time to time, for the Government and regional councils to carry out aerial 1080 poison control operations to control possums, which also affect deer populations.

I'm pretty sure that's an area where we're sometimes going to have to agree to disagree.

There are important conservation reasons for keeping feral deer numbers as low as possible in vulnerable and special areas of our country.

The New Zealand biodiversity strategy adopted last year and funded with an unprecendented $187 million over five years underlined the Labour-Alliance coalition Government's commitment not only to halting the loss of indigenous biodiversity, but also to restoring natural habitats along with indigenous animal and plant species.

Wild deer will continue to be valued as a recreational and commercial hunting resource. But, under the biodiversity strategy, the protection of our unique plants and animals, and the places they live in, takes precedence over introduced species.

The right of New Zealanders to hunt deer on public conservation land for recreation, trophy value, and venison is enhanced in the Department of Conservation's policy statement on deer control.

Government policy is not a policy of extermination of all deer.

DOC, working with regional councils, is seeking to eradicate feral deer from traditional deer-free areas, such as the great kauri forests of Northland. I'm told by my colleague Sandra Lee that there are now only five deer thought to be still in Northland.

But the eradication of deer from the main forest tracts where they are well-established is impossible, as deerstalkers know.

I am quite confident that there will still be chamois, feral pigs, himalayan thar, wapiti, red, sika, fallow, sambar, and white-tailed deer for your members to hunt for years to come.

Congratulations on the launch of the foundation.


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