Hopes New Zealand-wide competition will get feral goat population under control

The Department of Conservation (DoC) has partnered with the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association in a bold new plan to bring Aotearoa's feral goat population under control.

Together they're running a national hunting competition from August until mid-November.

DoC's national programmes director Ben Reddiex said goats are becoming more widespread throughout the country and in some places they're "pretty high-density". Goats are running rampant in roughly 15 percent of New Zealand and they're leaving a trail of destruction.

"Wild goats heavily browse native plants, they eat seedlings, they can strip bark off trees, they trample and compact soils," Reddiex said.

Goats reduce a healthy forest to a ravaged and bare understory. But native flora isn't the only thing they target.

"Feral goats and other introduced pests are a huge headache for farmers. They bring in disease, they damage pastures, they damage native plantings and do significant damage to farm soils and also fences as well," said Wayne Langford, Federated Farmers national president.

That will be until they become the target of a new nationwide hunting competition next month.

Hunters will be able to enter the competition from 50 different locations throughout the country. There are four categories, including one where the more goat tails you enter until November 26, the more chances you'll have to win.

Last year, New Zealand Deer Stalkers Association members managed to shoot 17,500 goats.

"It does show that hunter-led management does work," said Callum Sheridan, NZ Deerstalkers Association national vice-president.

There's also an added bonus to the competition.

"It's a way to provide food for families, it's a way to alleviate stress. For some people, getting out in the backcountry, seeing the outdoors is a big part of it. That's something we see eye-to-eye on with the Department [of Conservation]," Sheridan said.

He's also got some tips for those eyeing up an entry.

"Make sure you've got the wind right. If the wind's in your face, you'll be doing well. If they smell you, they know humans are a threat."

For those wanting to take part in the competition, hunters need to make sure they seek permission from farmers before they go out hunting on their land.