Hunters up in arms over Government's new online safety ad campaign

Hunters are up in arms over a Government ad campaign urging parents to talk to their children about what they're watching online.

The Keep it Real campaign made headlines earlier this month for an ad featuring "porn stars" who turn up at a teenager's house and talk to his mother about what her son has been watching online.

The series of ads are designed to give advice to parents so they can educate their children about the risks of pornography, bullying, grooming and inapprioriate content online.

In another of the ads, a child can be seen watching a cute "rabbit birthday party" video. When it ends and the girl clicks on a suggested video, however, she is taken to footage of a "rabbit hunting party".

She is then confronted with rabbits being shot, a scene that is simultaneously acted out on her front lawn for her father to see.

But the NZ Game Animal Council says the ad "unnecessarily demonises" hunting.

"Content such as this, which also illustrates ludicrously bad firearms practices, implies that hunting is wrong and something to be afraid of," says Tim Gale, general manager of the Game Animal Council.

"For many New Zealanders hunting is a family activity. Most Kiwi hunters progressively learn their hunting skills from mum and dad and it is a really positive part of many Kiwi childhoods," Gale said.

"I can understand what the Government is trying to achieve with this campaign but this particular ad misses the mark. Perhaps next time they could consult with those of us who understand hunting first."

Gale said he was writing to the Department of Internal Affairs to highlight the sector's concerns. 

ACT leader David Seymour also weighed in on the issue, saying the ad needed to be "changed immediately".

"For a government agency to put hunters in the same category as pornographers, bullies, and groomers is a complete disgrace," Seymour said.

"What message does that send to children whose parents hunt for food? Or who do pest control on the farm?"

He said hunting was a "completely legitimate activity" and the campaign "will only further stigmatise the firearms community".

The ad campaign is led by the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) and developed in consultation with NetSafe, among other agencies.

Jordan Williams, executive director of the Taxpayers' Union, said the ad is a political use of taxpayers' money and should be pulled.

"If this advert was published by a Government agency, it would rightly be slammed as too political," Williams said. "But because NetSafe is not part of the Government, the usual rules of political neutrality don't technically apply. NetSafe have forgotten that they’re still taxpayer funded, and running politically charged campaign ads in the lead up to an election is totally inappropriate."

Williams called the ad "tone deaf", saying hunting rabbits was a normal part of childhood for thousands of children brought up in rural communities.

"The ad looks like it was created by a bunch of woke Ponsonby creatives, with no idea of the rural way of life," he said.

NetSafe chief executive Martin Cocker told Newshub the Taxpayers' Union's criticism was misdirected.

"We're a partner in the campaign so we helped support it and provide advice for it etc but it is a DIA campaign, not a NetSafe campaign."

He said the ads were "designed to try and bring life to some of the online safety challenges that parents face with their children".

"This particular one is about kids going from content that they are comfortable with to content they are less comfortable with  - it's not anything more than that," he said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Internal Affairs said the ad was not comparing hunting to the likes of pornography, bullying or grooming.

"While the ad sits within a broader campaign about online issues and risks, those issues and risks are not comparable. It is the online environment that is the link – this particular ad shows how easy it can be for young children to go from a safe and happy place to a scary space with one click," the spokesperson said.

"The man with the gun in the ad is a play on a classic Elmer Fudd-type character: a bumbling character who unsuccessfully pursued Bugs Bunny with a gun and is not a responsible gun owner. In the real world, in a different context, Elmer could be a scary character. The ad shows that comical and light hearted themes in a cartoon can quickly become scary for a child when confronted by them in a different context."

The DIA supported the right of Kiwis to hunt responsibly but also wanted to encourage parents and caregivers to have conversations with their children about what they see online, the spokesperson said.