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Recreational Hunters Contribute Significantly To Conservation Efforts Despite Advertising Claims From Forest And Bird

Prior to the agreement by Forest and Bird to pause their legal action against the Department of Conservation and the Fiordland Wapiti Foundation, the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association (NZDA) filed a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority against Forest and Bird. The purpose of the complaint was to seek clarification and supporting evidence for Forest and Bird’s claim that “Forest & Bird is New Zealand’s leading independent conservation organisation”.

“I was surprised to see that claim across their marketing materials” said NZDA’s Operations and Marketing Manager Hugh Devereux-Mack. “When comparing their online figures to the results of our recent member survey, the effort that recreational hunters contribute to conservation seems to be significantly more, which made me question how they could be so confident in their claims’.

The recently completed NZDA 2023/24 membership survey sought to document the conservation work that their members have contributed to New Zealand’s conservation efforts. It found that more than 50% of their 12,000 members had been involved with conservation activity including pest control, trapping, organised culls, habitat restoration, native planting projects, and hut/track maintenance work.

“It was remarkable to see that of the 1,052 survey respondents, 872 were involved in conservation activity and they directly accounted for more than 57,000 hours of work. When this is extended to our wider membership base, it shows that potentially our members contributed hundreds of thousands of hours of conservation work” said Devereux-Mack. ‘This figure of around 460,000 hours does not include any volunteer hours for fundraising which the NZDA does not do, nor does it include the hours that recreational hunters spend hunting game animals, though the number of animals harvested is also significant’.

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NZDA members harvested approximately 376,500 animals in the last 12 months with fallow deer (85k), and red deer (45k) being the most successfully hunted. As well as species that are considered pest animals such as goats (139k) and wallabies (61k). Pigs, rabbits, and small pests such as stoats and rats were also targeted.

NZDA President Craig Benbow said he was not surprised at the numbers saying “ hunters spend as much time as they can hunting, see the nature of work needing doing and simply get on with doing it” “What needs to be recognised is that our conservation work is done at no cost to the taxpayer which is why partnerships with DOC and others are critical to maintaining a working relationship that benefits the country”.

Devereux-Mack added that “although the NZDA is the largest non-profit membership organisation for hunters, our efforts do not include those of recreational hunters who are not members. The positive conservation impacts made by our members is only the tip of the iceberg meaning hunters need to be considered by the Minister for Conservation when making decisions around access and funding opportunities”.

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