GAC Chair Don Hammond opens NZDA 2018 Conference

NZDA Annual Conference 2018
President Bill,
Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage,
President of NZ Professional Hunting Guides Association, John Scurr & Past President, Gerald Telford
Director General of DOC, Lou Sanson Distinguished Guests and members

It is a pleasure and honour for me to be able to speak to you this evening and to open this Conference.
We live in a rapidly changing and evolving world. Everywhere there are threats to the environment and to the way of life we have enjoyed for most of our lives. Whether you think this is good or bad, is less important than needing to accept and understand the changes and adapt to them.

One of those changes is the presence of the President and Past President of the Guides Association. Not so very long ago, their presence at a Deerstalkers conference would probably be seen as treason by their own members and an act of war by NZDA members. We also have members of Safari Club International here.

For me this strongly signifies that we all realise the opportunities we have in NZ, how precious they are to us, and, that we have more in common than differences between us.

In recent times we have seen robust debate between recreational and commercial hunting interests including WARO operators. While we may not agree on all points, we do agree that hunting is a better tool for managing game animal herds than toxins, and is more environmentally benign. The challenge is therefore to bring the various stakeholders together and work towards some common agreed outcomes.

We have the Director General of DOC here too and Lou, it is great to see you amongst this gathering. This is a very positive development that has occurred in recent years and has helped in building the strong relationship the GAC and NZDA have with the Department. Nowhere has this been more apparent that the consultative and constructive process that has developed around the Battle for our Birds Programme in recent years. I believe all parties have benefited from the cooperative approach and there has been a significant reduction in conflict associated with these programmes as a result.
I also believe that having the Minister here demonstrates how important hunting is to ensuring the protection and enhancement of our indigenous ecosystems that we all value.
Hunters, and in particular recreational hunters, remove more game animals from the Conservation estate than any other group, including the Department itself.
Hunters have in general two significant questions: where are the animals, and how do I hunt them?
This creates opportunities for all groups to work together to achieve desired outcomes including:

  • Firstly, the safety of all involved, which is a key focus for the GAC
  • Minimisation of conflict between different components of the hunting sector and other users of the conservation estate
  • Maximising the harvest of animals to satisfy both hunter objectives and to protect and enhance conservation outcomes.

All of this requires good communication between all involved, the building of trust and the building of relationships. This approach takes time and effort, but with the right commitment, provides the best long term outcome.
Tahr are a species that are highly valued by all hunters, but also have the potential to cause damage if the population is not managed. Presently we have the situation where tahr numbers are in excess of previously agreed management plans, and there is a clear need to react to this. Both commercial and recreational hunters have a role and responsibility to contribute to managing the species, but this requires resources, cooperation and information. It also requires coordination of effort.
Hunters require information to know where to target their efforts and the Department needs information to know where the best conservation outcomes can be achieved through focusing hunter effort. Hunters want to know where the Department has carried out any control activity so they can avoid those areas and the Department needs to identify where the greatest conservation outcomes can be achieved. The GAC is the entity that can bring the various components together, harness the energy and resources of hunters and focus efforts where the best conservation outcomes can be achieved.
Through dedicated and focused management, other outcomes are also attained including economic, social and health contributions within NZ, all the while enhancing conservation outcomes. For example, hunting contributes not only hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity, it is also a major source of protein for many families in more remote parts of the country.
For tahr as well as many other species, hunters are the most important part of the solution, whether you are a commercial hunter, a WARO operator, a DOC employed hunter or the biggest group of all, a recreational hunter. To get the best outcome, there is a need for these various groups to ‘know the plan” and how each contributes to that.
In front of a room full of NZDA members, I am not telling you anything you don’t know. Perhaps what I am doing is reminding us all of the important role hunters play within our conservation estate. With the exception of departmental hunters, all other hunting groups (be they commercial, WARO or recreational) are primarily privately funded. This is a contribution that runs to many millions of dollars each year – probably in the order of 10-20% of the departmental vote. The challenge is to maximise the benefits of this investment for all stakeholders.
As the hunting sector matures, we are also seeing an increasing commitment from hunters to supporting (both financially and physically) the removal of predators and protecting vulnerable species. An excellent example of this is the predator trapping programme carried out by the Fiordland Wapiti Foundation and more recently their teaming up with the Kea Foundation to support research on this fascinating parrot.
That has to be a win for everyone, but especially for the managers of our conservation estate, being able to harness the resources of the private sector to assist in achieving the conservation outcomes sought.
With that message, I am encouraged by the ongoing commitment and achievements of the NZDA and in recent times also of the successes of the GAC.
We can all work towards a better and more informed future, and we can grow the business for current and future generations.
In conclusion, it gives me great pleasure to declare this conference open, and I wish all delegates a productive time here in Wellington, looking to the future.