Troubling times with tahr

The Game Animal Council welcomed greater involvement in the implementation of the 2020-21 Tahr Control Operational Plan outside Aoraki/Mt Cook and Westland Tai Poutini National Parks and said it would engage constructively with DOC to balance conservation values with sensible game animal management.

 However, the Council remained concerned that the decision to go ahead with the full allocation of helicopter control hours combined with a target of no tahr in the national parks was based on short-term population targets rather than longer-term management objectives.

 “The current plan not only negatively impacts hunting, particularly in our national parks but may not have the longer-term environmental benefits that could be achieved by taking a more nuanced approach to management,” said Game Animal Council General Manager Tim Gale.

 Analysis of the 2020-21 Plan, detailed suggestions for effective long-term management, and an examination of each management unit was explicitly set out in the Game Animal Council’s submission.

 “Strictly, the National Parks Act and the Himalayan Tahr Control Plan (HTCP) enable the removal of bulls from Aoraki/Mt Cook and Westland Tai Poutini National Parks. However, from both an environmental and hunting perspective, there is a minimal advantage in doing so.”

 “Shooting a bull or a nanny has a very different impact on the future number of tahr. Removing a nanny effectively reduces the population by much more than one animal and has a significant impact on future herd numbers. Shooting mature bulls, on the other hand, has minimal long-term benefits as tahr are highly polygynous animals,” Gale said.

 The NZ Tahr Foundation was also disappointed at DOC’s decision to press ahead with the majority of the 2020-21 Tahr Control Operational Plan and was also expressing concern over the integrity of DOC’s decision-making process.

 “It’s unfortunate as there’s so much common ground between stakeholders with 90 per cent of the recent submissions all on the same page. The opportunity existed for us all to work together and end the ongoing conflict, yet DOC has continued to play divide and conquer, ”said Tahr Foundation spokesman Willie Duley.

 “DOC’s revised control plan is, for the most part, the same as their original plan, the same amount of culling hours, still targeting eradication in National Parks, not science-based and still ignoring critical parts of the Himalayan Tahr Control Plan 1993 which sets out how tahr should be properly managed.

 “The Tahr Foundation’s submission contends that the Department’s determination to eradicate tahr from Aoraki/Mt Cook and Westland Tai Poutini National Parks is a needless waste for very little environmental gain.”

 Gale said time spent culling mature bulls in national parks was an inefficient use of resources and caused needless aggravation of the hunting sector. If it also reduced the number of nannies controlled in higher density areas, then that is counterproductive and an environmental opportunity lost.

 “If the Game Animal Council was accorded greater involvement in the initial development of the Plan a better result could have been achieved for both the perpetual protection of alpine vegetation and the preservation of a sustainable tahr resource,” Gale said.

“As our submission points out, a much more adaptive management approach should be adopted that includes highly targeted control work, ongoing monitoring, and flexible adaptation using up-to-date data.”

 Duley said when it comes to the integrity of the consultation process, the Tahr Foundation has been concerned with the public comments made by the Department during this consultation.

 “Hunting sector submitters played by the rules and refrained from public commentary, as requested by the Department,” said Duley. “Yet DOC, despite being the decisionmaker, has gone public several times, and even dared to do so the morning of the decision with an opinion piece published in The Spinoff.

 “We demand that DOC now partner with the Game Animal Council to take a sensible approach to management outside national parks and that all future direction is based on a phased approach using sound science and proper consultation.

 “After being largely ignored by DOC throughout this consultation process, we will have to have a long hard look at the hunting sector’s relationship with the department going forward,” said Duley.

Read edition 990 of the Wānaka Sun here.


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