A powerful new video is urging hunters to "let bad habits die" ahead of the start of the duck shooting season.
Originally slated to begin on May 2, this year's duck shooting season was postponed due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
Following the country's move to alert level 2 last week, however, the season has now been given the green light to begin on May 23.
With hunters champing at the bit to get back outdoors, those heading out to the mountains in the weekend are being urged to put safety first.
A video released by the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council has issued an emotional message to hunters, with the message "let bad habits die, not your mates".
The video features a father and son out shooting ducks. When the dad fails to unload his gun or put the safety catch on when they stop for a cuppa, however, a tense stand-off ensues.
Mike Daisley, chief executive of New Zealand Mountain Safety Council, says the video aims to continue the downward trend in firearms-related incidents in recent years.
"In 2016 we identified a peak in firearms incidents with 22 occurring during that season alone," says Daisley.
"This peak was the culmination of a three-year increasing trend and led us in 2017 to implement a targeted video safety campaign known as 'Early Bird'.
"Off the back of that campaign we've seen incidents drop for two consecutive years. We want to keep that momentum going and continue to engage hunters with important safety messaging in relevant ways which is why we committed to another video campaign in 2020."
Daisley says the message hopes to break the "old-school attitudes" many hunters have towards the way they operate their firearms.
"The call to action this year 'let bad habits die, not your mates' is designed to stimulate the thought process, we want duck shooters to be thinking about their habits, their actions in the maimai, and how they alone have the safety of others in their hands," he says.
According to the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council, there were 180 firearms incidents between 2004 and 2018, with an average of 12 per annual season. Each incident involved a firearm being discharged causing harm to a person, either the shooter themselves or another shooter or bystander.
Bill O'Leary, from the Firearm Safety Council, said all incidents are avoidable.
"This year we want a safe and incident-free game bird season," says O'Leary.
He urged hunters to treat every firearm as loaded and for them to always check their firing zone.
"Ensuring your firing zone is safe is vital to ensure no other person, property or domestic stock are at risk, but each year there are reports of shooters failing to follow this simple rule.
"Because ducks fly quickly, the safe area can change just as rapidly as a hunter follows the speeding bird with their gun barrels."
He also advised hunters to unload their weapons while walking to a new shooting spot and to always make sure the gun's muzzle is pointing in a safe direction.