Coronavirus: Restricted hunting allowed under level 3 lockdown, duck-shooting postponed

Hunters will be able to hunt on private land with special restrictions under COVID-19 Alert Level 3, but not on public conservation land, the Government says.

Hunting has not been allowed since New Zealand moved to Alert Level 4.

Sport and Recreation Minister Grant Robertson and Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage said a shift to Level 3 next Tuesday morning will mean hunters can once again hunt locally - as long as they have the landholder’s permission and stick to the rules.

However the start of the duck hunting season has been postponed from Saturday 2 May to start on the second weekend after the date that is decided for when New Zealand moves to Alert Level 2.

"We know that hunting is an important part of life for many New Zealanders, and in some cases a critical source of food

"At Level 3 we also need to minimise the risk of losing the great progress we've made together in Alert Level 4 in stamping out the virus," Grant Robertson said.

Cabinet had agreed hunting on private land would be allowed under Alert Level 3, so long as hunters stay within their region and stick to their bubble. 

"Hunting is only permitted on foot and overnight trips are not allowed. The use of quad bikes, off-road bikes, helicopters and other motorised vehicles is prohibited," said Robertson.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage said hunting on public conservation land was not allowed until the time when there is a decision for New Zealand return to Alert Level 2.

"This helps with consistency across walking and mountain biking where people must stay local, rather than travelling to back country conservation land," said Sage.

The duck shooting season, scheduled to start on May 4th, would now start and end later.

"I know this is disappointing but for many duck hunters the social interaction around hunting is an important part of the activity, especially at opening weekend. The risks associated with groups of people coming together is too high," she said.

Fish & Game New Zealand said it had been working with the government to ensure the best possible options for the 2020 game bird season.

Chief Executive Martin Taylor said it had been a complex task to ensure the fight against Covid-19 continues, while still providing the best experience for game bird hunters.

"Game bird hunting is a national tradition and an important population management tool. It is great we can confirm a season will take place," said Taylor.

This would allow a fair and equitable game bird season for everyone, he said.

"This new date also allows hunters and retailers some time at Alert Level 2 to get a licence and get themselves set up for the new season start date."

Key Information:

How far can I travel to go hunting on private land?

You should drive as short a distance as you can. You must stay within your region.

Does private land include Māori land?

Yes - the same rules apply.

Have the deer roar and tahr rut ballots/hunting blocks been affected by COVID-19?

The Department of Conservation (DOC) runs an annual ballot system for hunters wishing to hunt during the deer roar and tahr rut period. The ballot ensures hunters have access to an assigned hunting block.

Hunting blocks assigned to hunters as part of the 2020 deer roar are cancelled.

The tahr rut begins in late April and is a popular time for hunting in the South Island. Tahr ballots allow a select number of hunters authorised aircraft landings in the Hooker-Landsborough and Adams Wilderness areas. As the tahr rut takes place over winter, the 2020 tahr ballots are currently under review.  DoC will contact ballot holders with more information in due course.

At Alert Level 3, people must not head into the backcountry/remote areas, for their safety and the safety of others. DOC huts are also not available for use.

Can I still get a hunting permit?

In order to hunt animals on public conservation land, hunters need a DOC hunting permit. DOC has temporarily disabled the function on its website which allows hunters to apply for permits. This will be reassessed at Alert Level 2.