New Zealand red stag by David Hughes
Game animal or pest? A wild red stag hunted in NZ. Pic: David Hughes

Between a pest and a game animal: NZ debates status of non-native animals

New Zealand’s National Party has proposed that some animals be given “valued introduced species” status in an effort to better manage game animals that risk being wiped out as pests.

NZ laws are conflicted over the treatment of non-native creatures, with the Game Animal Council Act defining deer, pigs, chamois and tahr as game animals that are to be managed, and the Biodiversity Act regarding them as pests to be eradicated.

This has brought division between recreation and tourism interests on one side and conservationists and some farmers on the other.

Fish such as trout and salmon were also caught in the controversy. 

National Party hunting and fishing spokesperson Todd McClay has promised his party would reform legislation to remove reference to these species being pests and provide a framework under which they could be better managed.  

McClay also said his party would guarantee access to public land and ocean water to hunt and fish without a licence. 

The statement comes in response to concerns that game species were being increasingly targeted as pests and that the ability of New Zealanders to enjoy hunting and fishing was being reduced over time. 

A recent campaign by Fish & Game NZ against new environmental legislation, under which hunters and fishers stood to lose access and rights, resulted in the proposed laws being reassessed. 

“For many hundreds of thousands of us, being outdoors is an essential part of living a good life,” Fish & Game chief executive Corina Jordan argued.

“Our way of life includes the ability to go bush, or to the water, to relax or focus on outdoor activities, and to harvest nature’s bounty in a healthy environment.”

She said she agreed the new laws were required but that the initial proposal was not the right one.

“The Bill must explicitly state the values widely held across society for the environment, such as custodianship, recreation, amenity values, and fishing and hunting,” she said. 




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Mick Matheson

Mick grew up with guns and journalism, and has included both in his career. A life-long hunter, he has long-distant military experience and holds licence categories A, B and H. In the glory days of print media, he edited six national magazines in total, and has written about, photographed and filmed firearms and hunting for more than 15 years.


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