Coronavirus: Hunting industry desperate for borders to reopen

More than 90 percent of clients come from overseas.
More than 90 percent of clients come from overseas. Photo credit: File

Although the country's hunting industry has welcomed news that a shift to level 2 would allow hunters to access public conservation land and travel to their favourite spots again, the New Zealand Professional Hunting Guides Association says it is desperate for our borders to reopen again.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is set to announce on Monday afternoon when Kiwis can expect the highly anticipated shift to level 2. That comes after three new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed on Monday.

James Cagney, president of the New Zealand Professional Hunting Guides Association, said although the industry is hopeful the return of domestic tourism will go some way to providing operators with much-needed revenue again, the 2020 season is essentially all but lost.

"The timing for us couldn't have been worse," Cagney told Rural Exchange on Monday. "It's impacted the whole tourist industry, but for the hunting industry, in particular, we don't have a summer season, we don't have a summer peak. Our peak season is autumn, late summer through autumn into winter - so really it's hit us right at our peak and shut us down just as we've started for the season."

With more than 90 percent of clients coming from overseas, the industry is waiting for the country's borders to reopen, whenever that might be.

"The reality of it is that the industry is very much geared to that international market and a lot of our operators, particularly our bigger operators, are almost totally reliant on that international market. So for us we would dearly love to see some strategies put in place as things unfold to get the borders open in some way or other...that is our preferred end goal."

Last week the New Zealand Professional Hunting Guides Association, New Zealand Deerstalkers Association, and the Game Animal Council released a joint statement welcoming Government guidelines allowing domestic travel and hunters to access public conservation land when the shift to level 2 comes.

Although the bulk of revenue comes from overseas tourists, a lowering of the levels would bring "some relief" to the sector, Cagney said.

"There are many of our operators who have New Zealand clients booked, ready to go who have just been waiting for that opportunity for level 2 to come along and for people to be able to travel and participate in those sorts of activities."

But with the 2020 season essentially lost and 2021 also containing "lots of question marks" hovering over it, Cagney said the industry was, for the large part, in limbo for the time being.

"We're going to have to wait and see."

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