14 Aug 2018

Future of hunting statutory body under review

10:24 am on 14 August 2018

The future of the publicly funded hunters body, the Game Animal Council, hangs in the balance with the Minister of Conservation putting it under review.

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Photo: DoC / Gordon Roberts

The council is a statutory body established in 2013 and has so far been allocated $600,000 from the Department of Conservation's budget in its short life.

The goal of the Game Animal Council is to improve the management of deer, chamois, tahr and wild pigs on conservation land.

In this year's Conservation Budget it was given $225,000.

The Conservation Minister, Eugenie Sage, said she is looking at the council's role as a stakeholder liaison group and whether it had been effective.

"I think they have sought to have a greater role than the statute has given them," Ms Sage said.

Minutes from the council's last two meetings show that two of its directors have been in Las Vegas at a show for hunting guides.

The show was the annual convention of the Safari Club International a US-based group which claims to have spent US $140 million since 2000 on protecting the freedom to hunt through lobbying and litigation.

It describes itself as a political force in Washington DC and other capitals.

The council chair, Don Hammond, said the trip was funded by the directors personally, not from the public purse and was organised because the council represents hunting guides.

The minutes also show that while in Las Vegas one of the directors met with an organisation called the International Conservation Coalition - whose purpose is to change the negative perception of hunters in the mainstream media.

ICC's Facebook page posts about what is called the "sustainable utilisation" of big game animals such as elephants and lions - or the harvesting of these animals to manage their conservation.

The minutes said the ICC wants financial support but the council can't afford it at this stage, it would consider it in the future.

Mr Hammond said the ICC is concerned with the conservation of animals across the globe and that it was appropriate the council was aware and supportive of what ICC were doing.

"We promote the conservation of animal species," Mr Hammond said.

The council has spent time on projects like managing tahr according to the minutes, but it has also spent time questioning the scientific justification behind the use of 1080 - a flagship tool for DOC's pest control.

Mr Hammond said any application of a toxin onto the environment should have some level of scientific justification, "the Game Animal Council is not opposed to the use of 1080 per se, but what we're saying is that it should be used wisely."

Ms Sage said it is not helpful that the council is taking this line with 1080.

Peter Dunne helped establish the council when he was the Associate Conservation Minister.

He said there was nothing wrong with the council's involvement with ICC, but it should not fund it.

Mr Dunne said he was not surprised that Ms Sage is looking at the council's future and that this government was always antagonistic towards the council.

Ms Sage said the council's future will be decided in the next few months.