Consultation leads to tahr cull concessions

After belated consultation with hunting groups it appears that concessions have been granted by the Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage on tahr cull plans.

RNZ (21 September): Tahr population out of control

There’s concern not enough is being done to control Tahr in New Zealand.

Numbers of the Himalayan tahr have shot up, the population is now five times what it should be, which could threaten our native alpine ecosystems.

A plan has been proposed to reduce the population, but hunting organisations are opposed to it.

To explain the situation, we’re joined by Forest & Bird’s Regional Manager for Canterbury, Nicky Snoyink.

Your NZ (27 September): Conservation minister versus hunters, National on tahr control

National have been having a spat with Green MP and Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage, in support of hunting interests opposed to the cull.

…this is an unresolved issue put on hold for now.

RNZ (28 September): Bid to take government to court over Tahr cull plans

A fighting fund of $145,325 has been raised through Givealittle to pay for lawyers, if talks between the government and the hunting sector, set for Monday, do not go well.

The cull is opposed by the National Party as well as by hunters, and there is even confusion about when it will start.

But the Minister for Conservation has given parliament details about how it will happen, with the animals herded into groups with helicopters, and then killed with shotguns.

Eugenie Sage was answering a question from the National Party MP Todd McClay about slaughter by helicopter-borne hunters.

“I have not instructed the Department [of Conservation] to do that,” she told MPs.

“But the department will be using aerial control, it needs to do the control operation now, and yes it will be using shotguns in the same way that hunters use guns to kill Tahr themselves. ”

Ms Sage said the operation had to be done quickly before a new breeding season started.

RNZ (2 October): Hunting lobby wins concessions over tahr cull

A meeting was held yesterday between Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage and hunting groups including the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association and the Game Animal Council as well as conservation groups such as Forest and Bird, and iwi Ngāi Tahu with the hunting industry emerging confident at the outcome.

The hunting fraternity say Ms Sage has pulled back from positions which the industry had found unacceptable and forced her to re-think plans to cull 10,000 Himalayan Tahr from the Southern Alps.

Former president of the Deerstalkers Association Bill O’Leary told RNZ that a draft operational plan was agreed on at the meeting which would reduce the number of tahr to be killed – but he did not give a number.

He said it was agreed that the original plan put out by the Department of Conservation was not fit for purpose and needed modification, including the number of animals that would be culled.

“The agreement as such was not so much that they had to be reduced, which we all agree on, as by how many and where and who would do the job,” Mr O’Leary said.

He also said there would be changes to the locations of the cull and a reduction in the numbers of males to be killed, which would preserve horned tahr for trophy hunters.

Mr O’Leary said the meeting was productive and attended by virtually everyone with an interest in tahr, with a set of general principles being agreed to.

Initially Ms Sage had proposed culling 10,000 tahr over the next eight months, but she said last night that DOC had taken on an adaptive management approach, and would cull 6000 over the next six weeks.

Ms Sage said this would be reviewed after the summer, but that DOC still had a commitment to cull 10,000 tahr by the end of July.

She also said DOC would not be targeting bull tahr outside of national parks.

Ms Sage said there are an estimated 35,000 tahr on public conservation land and the original Himalayan Tahr Control Plan forged back in 1993 was to limit the numbers to 10,000.

It may be that Sage is learning that consultation as a Green MP/environmental activist is quite different to the wider considerations and consultation required of a Minister. It is good to see that she has been prepared to listenand act on concerns.

Conservation minister versus hunters, National on tahr control

National have been having a spat with Green MP and Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage, in support of hunting interests opposed to the cull: Hunting group threatens legal action over DoC’s mass cull of Himalayan tahr

A recreational hunting group is threatening court action in an attempt to prevent the Department of Conservation’s (DoC’s) mass cull of the Himalayan tahr.

The New Zealand Tahr Foundation is unhappy with DoC’s decision to cull 10,000 tahr on public conservation land in the South Island, including the Westland-Tai Poutini and Aoraki Mt Cook National Parks, over the next 10 months.

DoC estimates there are at least 35,600 tahr on public conservation land – 25,600 more than allowed under the Himalayan Thar Control Plan 1993.

The Tahr Liaison Group, made up of organisations with hunting interests and Ngāi Tahu, will help reduce the numbers by hunting an extra 7500 – overall halving the population if successful.

New Zealand Tahr Foundation Treasurer Kaylyn Pinney says the group just wants its consideration to be heard by DoC.

“It think this is pretty clear this is important for everybody,” she says.

“You can’t just walk in and take away the biggest resource to the hunting industry and expect us not to stand up for ourselves.”

Yesterday from National MP Sarah Dowie:  20k signatures calling on Sage to cut the tahr cull

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage needs to listen to the almost 20,000 Kiwis who have signed my petition in less than 15 hours and halt her cull of tens of thousands of tahr, due to start this weekend, National’s Conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie says.

“Ms Sage’s decision to kill these tahr based on anecdotal evidence and without a proper consultation process with recreational hunters and the hunting industry is appalling.

“This is not based on science and is an unacceptable slap in the face for the hundreds of thousands of recreational hunters who make a difference on the ground for conservation.

“Not only that, Ms Sage has also specifically instructed Department of Conservation to cull bull tahr – worth an estimated $14,000 each to the booming hunting tourism industry.

“National believes that conservation should be based on science, not ideology. Like the hunting community, National believes tahr numbers do need to be sensibly managed.

“Instead of taking a pragmatic approach, Ms Sage is ignoring advice from hunting representatives like the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association who have proposed a managed hunter-led population reduction over three years.

“The Minister is arming DOC rangers with guns and chartering helicopters as we speak.

“The cull starts Sunday. It must be stopped.”

The petition calling on Eugenie Sage to Stop the Tahr Cull can be found here.

There was some controversy over the petition that I don’t have details on.

Sage responded:  National prioritise invasive species above alpine ecosystems and landscapes

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage says the National Party’s petition to stop control of Himalayan tahr shows that National doesn’t understand conservation, and is resorting in opposition to a bizarre form of shouting for the sake of political point scoring.

“Truly, a petition by National to “save tahr” is absurd,” Eugenie Sage says.

“Whilst in government, National were missing in action protecting our special alpine landscapes and ecosystems from heavy browsing and trampling by a ballooning population of Himalayan tahr.

“Despite the international importance of New Zealand’s alpine plants, many of which are only found here in Aotearoa, the Department of Conservation was starved of funding and tahr numbers were allowed to explode.

“Once again, this government is having to clean up after nine years of neglect. I am taking the necessary steps to fix the damage done, and making decisions that protect our biodiversity and beautiful indigenous plants. I am proud to stand up for our native taonga in the Ka Tiritiri o Moana/Southern Alps.

“The previous government did not ensure that the limits in the Himalayan Tahr Control Plan from 1993 were kept, and numbers of tahr have ballooned three times higher than allowed.

“We’ve resurrected the Tahr Liasion Group that provides hunters, conservation and other stakeholders with input because we recognise that communities love our alpine landscapes.

“I will continue to engage with the Tahr Liason Group and with hunting groups such the Game Animal Council and NZ Deerstalkers on this important issue.

“I’m not sure if National are aware of the science on this, but tahr are an invasive species that eat their way through our precious native plants. They are destroying the unique New Zealand biodiversity in the Southern Alps, a stunning part of New Zealand that New Zealanders want to protect.

“Would National seriously rather protect invasive tahr than protect our world-renowned natural landscapes? That is what at risk here.

“I suggest National do some homework before continuing to peddle this petition,” Eugenie Sage said.

Deerstalkers Association is against this (ODT) ‘Search and destroy’ tahr cull criticised

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage’s proposals to cull 17,500 Himalayan mountain tahr has been described as an unnecessary ”large-scale search and destroy” operation – destined to end up in court.

Almost $120,000 has been pledged to the Tahr Foundation toward legal costs by hunters during the past five days, since Ms Sage announced the cull.

In a letter to members of the New Zealand Deerstalkers’ Association, national president Trevor Chappell said yesterday Ms Sage’s proposal to cull so deeply into a herd was ”unprecedented”.

”If it means that a court injunction needs to be sought – so be it,” Mr Chappell said.

He believed Ms Sage’s stance could escalate further into a ”wholesale slaughter” of introduced Fiordland wapati and red deer and the sika deer of the Kaimanawas and Kawekas.

”Minister Sage has already indicated there will be no recognition of Herds of Special Interest on her watch. As these herds have relatively defined areas, they may be next on the list.”

Mr Chappell said ”We will oppose unnecessary 1080 poison drops on our game animals and we will vigorously oppose the unconsulted decimation of the tahr herd.”

NZDA agreed tahr numbers were too high, but proposed a reduction over three years.

Late Wednesday (National Party): Minister Sage forced to postpone her tahr hunt

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage has been forced to postpone the mass tahr cull she ordered to start this weekend because of huge pressure from recreational hunting and tourism industry, National’s Conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie says.

“Ms Sage personally ordered the culling of tens of thousands of tahr without adequately consulting with the hunting industry and recreational hunters who would be directly affected.

“While I welcome the fact that Ms Sage has delayed her cull this weekend, I am disappointed it has come to this.

“While National supports managing tahr numbers the Minister has no excuses for not adequately consulting with the hunting industry and recreational hunters.

“The hunting sector is advocating a responsible plan to manage tahr numbers rather than the slaughter of tens of thousands of animals. If Ms Sage had properly consulted, she would have a better understanding of this.

“Ms Sage must halt the cull until she has listened to advice from hunting representatives like the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association who have proposed a managed hunter-led population reduction over three years.

“Almost 23,000 concerned New Zealanders have signed my petition calling on her to stop the cull. She must listen to them.”

So this is an unresolved issue put on hold for now.

Sage again seems to have discovered that Green ideals can be tricky to implement in the real world of politics.