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Address to New Zealand Deerstalkers AGM

Hon Chris Carter Minister of Conservation

Address to New Zealand Deerstalkers’ Association AGM July 2004

Greetings Trevor and NZDA members. I regret greatly that I am unable to be with you as I have enjoyed meeting and working with the Deerstalkers’ Association over the last year. There is much I would have liked to discuss with you. I touch on only a couple of issues in this brief statement.

What I admire most about your organisation is your unswerving commitment to work in the interests of the ordinary Kiwi hunter who sees hunting for wild animals as an essential element of our country’s recreational heritage. There are those who would prefer to see your sport commercialised with access for hunting determined by your bank balance. I have encouraged my department to keep exploring with you ways of streamlining the hunting permit system to remove all unnecessary bureaucracy and to reinforce the principle of free hunting access to public conservation lands.

I have just read your annual report and was extremely impressed by your professionalism and by the wide range of activities you undertake.

I note you promote an appreciation and respect for the outdoors amongst your members and that you also stress the need for safe handling of firearms through your young hunter and other programmes. As society becomes increasingly urbanised and remote from rural realities, your efforts to ensure hunters act responsibly with the utmost attention to their own and others safety are vital.

Like you, I have been disturbed by the number of firearm accidents involving hunters. Apart from the human tragedy affecting the family and friends of the victim and also the lifelong emotional burden facing the hunter who pulled the trigger, these incidents harm the reputation of your sport with the wider public. For many the only time they hear about hunting is when another hunter has been accidentally shot. It is in the interests of hunting as a sport that these accidents are eliminated and that the public is presented with positive images and messages about hunting. All it would take is a couple of incidents where trampers are mistakenly shot by hunters for there to be a public and media clamour for greater restrictions on access to firearms and on the hunting of public lands. In this respect, the future of hunting is in your hands.

In the last year I have worked hard to open up more areas for public recreation through the purchase of high country properties and the decision to transfer the vast Molesworth Station into the public conservation estate. Your organisation’s support for these decisions has been important to me. I did note that at a time others in the hunting and fishing fraternity were arguing for the status quo on Molesworth, that NZDA could see the wisdom of securing this large area in permanent public ownership. The government was guided in its decisions on Molesworth as much by the need to improve over time the opportunities for public recreational use as by the conservation values of inland Marlborough’s unique environment. You will be pleased to learn that facilitating access to Molesworth for hunting is one of the objectives of the just released revised Molesworth management plan and this objective will continue when DoC takes over in July 2005.

We need to keep talking about those vexing questions regarding forest health, wild animal numbers, and an acceptable mix of control methods particularly with the termination of commercial hunting over vast areas of the back country. Deer numbers are on the rise again and while there may be some short term hunting benefits, the long term impacts on ecosystem health threaten everyone’s interests. Your acceptance of the need to reduce deer numbers in the Kaweka forest to enable the canopy trees to regenerate and key native bird species to flourish suggests to me there is greater unity on these issues than it sometimes appears.

I commend you in your prompt actions in distancing yourselves as an organisation and as individuals from the misguided few who threatened to release pests onto wildlife sanctuaries as some idiotic protest statement. Your president’s public comments that the wellbeing of New Zealand’s native birdlife was as important to hunters as it was to anyone sent a clear and timely message to the wider community.

As Minister of Conservation I see myself as a champion for both conservation and for responsible outdoor recreation. I wish you well for your conference and I will give careful consideration to any recommendations coming to me from this gathering.

ENDS

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