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Game Animal Council Bill – First Reading Speech

Hon Peter Dunne
Associate Minister of Conservation
Thursday 1 March 2012 Speech

Game Animal Council Bill – First Reading Speech

Mr Speaker, I move that the Game Animal Council Bill be read for a first time.

I propose to refer the Bill to the Local Government and Environment Committee.

This Bill delivers on the Government’s 2008 confidence and supply agreement with UnitedFuture to “proceed with the establishment of a Big Game Hunting Council as part of a national wild game management strategy with a view to it becoming a statutory authority”.

That provision had grown out of UnitedFuture’s 2005 agreement with the previous Labour-led Government, which led to the establishment of the Game Animal Panel.

After receiving over four thousand submissions, and hearing from a wide range of groups, individuals and organisations, the Panel, chaired by Hon Margaret Austin, proposed, amongst its recommendations, the establishment of a statutory organisation to co-ordinate and foster management of recreational, guided and commercial hunting.

In many senses, this Bill arises directly from the work of the Game Animal Panel, and I want to acknowledge the work of Margaret Austin and her team.

During the last Parliament, the Panel’s work was taken a step further through the work of the Game Animal Council Establishment Committee, chaired by Gary Ottmann, whose contribution I would also like to acknowledge.

The Establishment Committee conducted a further round of public consultations and the upshot was this Bill – introduced shortly before Parliament was dissolved for last year’s election.

So this Bill is the culmination of a deliberate, thorough and considered process under both Governments over the last six years, involving all the key stakeholders, and it is with a real sense of pride that I bring it before the House today.

The Bill establishes a Game Animal Council, including specifying its makeup and functions.

The purpose of the Game Animal Council is to improve the management of game animals, namely deer, tahr, chamois, and wild pigs; including the improvement of opportunities to hunt those animals while also providing advice to the Minister of Conservation on issues affecting the hunting sector.

Secondary objectives include: providing information and education to the hunting sector; reducing conflict within the sector, the promotion of safety initiatives including firearms safety, education and training; raising awareness and advocating for the views of the hunting sector; and conducting research into game animals and their management.

The Bill creates powers for the Minister of Conservation to manage “herds of special interest to hunters” for recreational hunting outcomes, and allows for those powers to be delegated to the Council.

A “herd of special interest to hunters” would be a game animal herd of a particular species or sub-species in specific locations that was considered to have high value to hunters, either because of the hunting experience and accessibility of the animals or the quality and significance of the trophy.

The Bill provides the Minister with the ability to designate a herd to receive such a status, based on the recommendation of the Council along with input from DoC and other stakeholders.

Upon a herd being designated a “herd of special interest” the Minister would delegate to the Council specific management functions to be carried out under a “herd management plan”.

The Director-General of Conservation, on recommendation from the Council, will have the ability to appoint warranted enforcement officers, similar but more limited in function to Fish and Game rangers.

Enforcement officers will ensure compliance with the conditions of herd management plans and prevent other illegal actions including the liberation, conveying and capturing of game animals.

A localised example of the “herd of special interest” model already exists – through the work of the Fiordland Wapiti Foundation.

In the past 6 years alone the Foundation has removed nearly 5500 predominantly red deer from Fiordland.

This has been paid for and managed by recreational hunters and is a classic win-win situation.

Conservation values are enhanced by the reduced number of deer while hunters enjoy a wapiti herd with far greater genetic integrity and trophy value than it had before.

Members of the Foundation have further contributed to conservation by laying up to 70 kilometres of pest control lines and funding the reopening of the Blue Duck hatchery in Te Anau.

Last December the Foundation finally achieved formal recognition of their efforts with the signing of a management agreement with the Department of Conservation.

The Fiordland Wapiti Foundation did all this from scratch and in the face of much scepticism.

Theirs is a great achievement and I heartily congratulate them.

The Game Animal Council will provide hunters with the legislative and organisational framework to be able to achieve similar outcomes in other parts of the country.

Funding for the Council will come primarily through a levy on the export of game trophies, supplemented by a small crown contribution of $50 000 per annum.

Provisions also exist in the legislation for other forms of self-funding to be explored in future.

It should be noted that the establishment of the Council will not alter in any way the current free access to hunting opportunities for recreational hunters.

The Council will have a minimum of nine and no more than eleven appointed members.

Those appointed to the Council will have knowledge and experience reflective of the diversity within the hunting sector and game animal industries.

Members will be sought through both public and organisational nominations.

I must emphasise, Mr Speaker, that this Bill does not dilute existing powers to manage wild animals for the purpose of protecting conservation values.

Herds of special interest to hunters must be managed consistent with statutory management strategies, plans and policies relating to conservation.

By allowing outdoor recreationists a greater stake in the management of their recreational resource, I believe, like the work of the Fiordland Wapiti Foundation, the Game Animal Council will achieve huge gains for both recreation and conservation.

New Zealand’s backcountry is a special place, however it would not be half as special if people were not inspired to go and use it.

For many New Zealanders their connection with our outdoor heritage is a major part of what it means to be a Kiwi.

The New Zealand backcountry, is not, as some may wish it to be, an exhibition in a museum – nice to look at, but never to be touched.

It is a place steeped in history, rewarding of adventure and offering a lifetime of enjoyment.

In some small way, I hope that this legislation and the organisation that it creates will uphold and enhance those values for the enjoyment of generations to come.

I commend this Bill to the House.


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