Hunters pleased with 'positive changes' to tahr control plan

The Department of Conservation (DoC) has agreed to reduce its tahr control programme in popular hunting locations and instead focus more on inaccessible and remote locations. 

The changes come after DoC released a "reconsidered" Himalayan tahr control plan earlier this month. 

The original plan was heavily criticised by both hunters and environmental groups.

The Tahr Foundation - a collective of farmers and hunters - took DoC to court over the plan, saying they weren't properly consulted and that the plan could jeapordise the commercial tahr hunting industry.

The reconsidered plan came after the High Court ruled in July DoC could only carry out a watered-down version of the original plan and had to consult with hunters.

On Monday, the New Zealand Game Animal Council (NZGAC) said discussions between the department and hunters had resulted in "some positive changes" to where DoC will focus tahr control outside Aoraki/Mt Cook and Westland Tai Poutini National Parks.

The High Court ruling allowed DoC to undertake 125 hours of its 250-hour control plan while it consulted stakeholders and reconsidered its plan. 

Dr Ben Reddiex, DoC's operations director, said 118 hours of aerial control had been completed over July and August. 

After discussions with NZGAC, the department had now finalised where the remaining 77 hours of tahr control outside of the national parks' management unit would be undertaken this year, Dr Reddiex said.

The reallocation sees a number of more accessible tahr hunting areas left for hunters, while DoC's control work would focus on more inaccessible and remote locations. 

"It makes much more sense for control operations to concentrate on places that are either seldom visited by hunters or very difficult to access," Tim Gale, NZGAC's general manager, said on Monday.

"We are pleased that DoC has agreed not to cull some of the more popular hunting spots and has reduced the hours it will spend in areas with low tahr densities."

Dr Reddiex said operations will be reduced within the South Rakaia and Upper Rangitata management unit, which is favoured by hunters, while other areas will not see any further control work.

"We have completed control for the year in the Wills/Makarora/Hunter management unit where tahr numbers are at relatively low densities," he said.

"Outside the national parks' management unit, DoC is avoiding popular hunting spots and huts, and is instead focusing on less accessible locations where tahr have built up into high densities." 

Dr Reddiex said there was no plan to eradicate Himalayan tahr from New Zealand.

"Within the feral range, and outside of the national parks' management unit, we're only targeting high densities of female and juvenile tahr. We're also avoiding areas around huts and the ballot landing sites.

"We will continue to leave identifiable male tahr for hunters outside of the national parks' management unit. Plans are also progressing to improve hunter access where possible, including extending the popular tahr ballot."

As well as the 77 hours of control discussed with the Game Animal Council, Dr Reddiex said a further 55 hours would take place in the national parks' management unit.

"We’re also concerned about the geographical spread of tahr, which is why we are targeting the northern and southern points of the feral range. This will be complemented by 145 hours of planned control in the exclusion zones and outside the feral range," he said.