Hunting group condemns threats made to Department of Conservation over tahr culling

A hunting group says it does not condone any threats made to the Department of Conservation (DoC) over a controversial tahr culling programme.

DoC confirmed to Newshub on Friday it had referred eight threats to police for investigation.

"A number of the threats reported to police have targeted DoC's use of helicopters for tahr aerial control," said DoC operations director Dr Ben Reddiex.

"DoC respects the right of individuals to protest lawfully and peacefully, but we will not tolerate threats or actions that put our staff or contractors in danger of harm, either physically or mentally.

"Any threats against staff or contractors will not be tolerated."

The New Zealand Deerstalkers Association (NZDA) on Friday condemned the threats, saying they were "not warranted or justified".

"NZDA does not condone any threats made by NZDA members or the public to the Department of Conservation staff and contractors, including the heli-operators involved with the 2020/21 tahr cull," the group said in a statement.

DoC's tahr culling plan has been criticised by both hunting groups and environmentalists.

The plan aimed to cull thousands of animals over the next year, as well as eradicating all tahr from national parks.

The Tahr Foundation - a collective of farmers and hunters - took the department to court over the plan, saying they weren't properly consulted. They also said the plan could jeopardise the commercial tahr hunting industry. 

But Forest and Bird, an environmental lobby group, complained the plan didn't go far enough to protect the alpine environment from the impact of tahr and called for more to be done.

Earlier this month the High Court ruled DoC could carry out a watered-down version of its plan, but had to hold back and consult properly with hunters.

On Friday Gwyn Thurlow, chief executive of NZDA, said DoC "seems to have lost the trust of a large group of public land users, setting back hunting and conservation relationships".

“DoC's actions in relation to its 2020/21 tahr cull has meant the public are taking their frustrations out on the very people they would often hire to fly them out into the backcountry hunting," said Thurlow. 

"NZDA sees the alleged threats as the logical result, rightly or wrongly, of DoC's failed processes and its lack of quality and timely communication with the hunting sector. If DoC met all of its obligations under the Himalayan Tahr Control Plan, including those it owes to hunters and hunting organisations, we most likely would not be in this current adversarial state."

Police confirmed to Newshub the threats were being investigated, saying enquiries were ongoing.