They call it heli-hunting

Press Release – NZ Deer Stalkers Association

The one thing it is not is hunting; hunting is all about the journey we go hunting to hunt not to kill an animal even though this is regarded as a successful outcome.October 12 2011

They call it heli-hunting

The one thing it is not is hunting; hunting is all about the journey we go hunting to hunt not to kill an animal even though this is regarded as a successful outcome.

The journey starts with pulling on boots and pack, slinging your rifle then fording rivers and climbing mountains in pursuit of the experience of hunting.

At day’s end there will be a reward, there is nothing surer. It may be in the sunrise, it may be an encounter with an animal you decide to leave unharmed, it may be in taking a trophy, it may be some meat from a young animal, or maybe a photo you will prize for the image captured – an image which will long remind you of glory days spent in alpine splendor.

For true hunters, the destination is never reached; he will pursue hunting as long as his legs will carry him, it is all about the experience. He hunts to have experienced hunting; he does not have to make a kill.

What then is heli-hunting?

Heli-hunting is not fair chase; it is hell bent on the kill at the end. The helicopter is used to find, chase and slay an animal to collect a fee. If the chase involves shooting at the animal with a shotgun to move it out of a cave or off a bluff where it seeks escape then so be it; constantly pursuing the animal until it is exhausted and then slaying it when it can no longer run or climb is deemed acceptable.

I liken this practice to some sort of fair ground ride, the trophy at the end a stuffed animal souvenir to remind the client of his joy ride, the client usually a wealthy tourist cares not for our parks and wilderness areas, our heritage and traditions, or the disrespect he has shown the kiwi public. Heli-hunting is conducted purely for a quick turn around and financial gain.

This practice is currently being carried out in our mountains and national parks; it is being perpetrated by a dozen or so helicopter companies and guides.

The animals targeted are the Himalayan tahr and the chamois and it is happening with the consent of the Department of Conservation. In fact DOC is processing applications to create a 10-year concession to allow heli-hunting over national parks and wilderness areas granting access rights no other group or individual has.

DOC produced a provisional report on heli-hunting for 2011, and, at a public meeting held in Christchurch, 13 September 2011 the department made it clear it is the department’s desire for commercial heli-hunting to continue. This meeting was attended by representatives of the West Coast Conservation Board, the Canterbury Conservation Board, the Otago Conservation Board, the New Zealand Deerstalkers’ Association, Safari Club International, Forest and Bird, Federated Mountain Clubs, Game and Forrest and many individuals with concerns about the way DOC is processing these permits. All representatives of these Kiwi conservation/outdoor recreation groups are unanimous in their opposition to heli-hunting.

Of the 60 – 70 attendees, there were only two in favor of heli-hunting being allowed to continue; these two being hunting guides involved in the practice of heli-hunting.

Mike Cuddihy, DOC Canterbury Conservator made it clear that there would be no public consultation, and that he is duty bound to process the applications for permits. Effectively then, heli-hunting will continue unless there is a law change to ban the activity.

The Wild Animal Control Act 1977 gives DOC the power to over ride the Conservation Act 1987 and the national parks legislation. It allows heli-hunting on conservation land and wilderness areas to go unchallenged, despite huge opposition to the activity.

In effect then, the tail is wagging the dog; the wishes of the New Zealand public take second place to a dozen commercial operators on New Zealand public land.

The Department of Conservation has collected $190,000 to date in concession fees for the activity of heli-hunting – none of which has come back into animal control – and no accounting of how much the application processing has cost, or of the on-going administrative costs thus far has been provided.

The report is full of failure to comply with permit conditions as set out in the temporary permits for 2011. The heli-hunting operators were to kill 5 females or young for every adult male or trophy animal.

They never achieved this. The figures are: 365 trophies – 391 cull.

This equals non compliance. Only 4 hunting logs were submitted, coordinates for 50 trophies have yet to be submitted, and 4 trophy kill locations fell outside approved heli-hunting blocks.

None of this should surprise any one.

Why would you shoot the goose that lays the golden egg? – or put another way – if you were farming and made your money selling bull calves, how long would you be in business for if you killed 5 cows for every calf you sold? The entire history of heli-hunting is one of non compliance and now rather than deal with these operators, DOC is proposing to let them have free reign. The DOC commercial heli-hunting permit will not police unethical behavior or non compliance of permit conditions – history has clearly proven this.

Is this all about the money?

Is DOC hell-bent on selling hunting rights to the highest bidder? If so, then they will have to manage game animals to maintain that income and they are not likely to do that. The proposed Game Animal Council is the way forward for management and control of game animals. A main concern is Mike Cuddihy stated the Crown had the right to sell these animals – and that is the problem. The animals actually belong to the New Zealand public; the Crown has no mandate to sell them to the heli- hunters. There has been, and remains huge opposition to this from the public.

New Zealand has a democratic government and it’s now election time. Democracy means government by the people. The people have spoken loud and clear on heli-hunting. They regard it as unethical, unsafe, unsporting, and disrespectful of our national parks and our egalitarian principles and, quite simply, don’t want any part of it.

It is clear now that only a change of law will satisfy the public concerns around heli-hunting.

Heli-hunting has become a political football, a football the National Minister of Conservation, Kate Wilkinson would do well to kick into touch once and for all. If she doesn’t, she runs the risk of scoring an own goal. The National Party looks safe in the poles, but many voters will use their party vote to influence this issue.

UnitedFuture already has its ‘hunters vote United Future’ bumper stickers out there and have clearly stated their opposition to heli-hunting. It is understood that the Labour Party is also opposed to heli-hunting.

ENDS

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