DOC review angering recreational hunters and taxpayers in the Lower North Island Dear Minister English
Background I am writing to you as Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Finance, and the Minister driving public sector reform, to ask you to raise concerns about a Department of Conservation (DOC) review with the Associate Minister of Conservation who is responsible for recreational hunting and wildlife management issues.
My concern relates to the recent DOC review of concessions for Wild Animal Recovery Operations (WARO) and the land areas available for that commercial helicopter hunting activity. Over 30% of the public conservation land (PCL) in the lower North Island has been impacted by the changes.
There are potentially very significant impacts from these changes, especially in the Ruahines, public land that recreational hunters, trampers, and families value and cherish.
The Associate Minister and DOC are familiar with this issue and can brief your staff on the public’s response to this review.
I am writing to you because interaction to date on the matter of concern between hunter representatives and government officials has highlighted significant attitudes and behaviours that should concern you.
These include the apparent disdain DOC officials hold for a significant section of the voting and taxpaying public, a disregard for fair and proper process, and a willingness to use communication techniques with the public that raise questions about their commitment to Better Public Services, transparency and commitment to genuine and meaningful consultancy and collaboration.
Hunting representatives, who have communicated on my behalf with Minister Dunne and DOC officials, have come away from the process frustrated, alienated and cynical about the Government’s attitude towards the recreational hunting community. Hunter representatives have told me that it has sometimes taken over four months and multiple communications to get simple questions answered.
To date the hunting community has invested money in commissioning legal enquiry into the DOC WARO review. The collective hunting community intends to take this approach further, and explore other avenues to gain profile for this issue, if necessary.
Key issues I am asking that you respond to me with answers to these specific questions:
With over 30% of the regions PCL significantly affected (opened to helicopter hunting year round) and previous departmental commitments to consult on any changes to land area offers (in the Ruahines), do you believe that it was appropriate of DOC not to publically notify this review?
Do you believe that it was appropriate of DOC to not consult in the first instance with impacted stakeholders including recreational hunters?
What scientific or formal studies or expert evidence has been used to inform the review about the deer population and potential negative effects in the relevant conservation lands, and when will these be made available to public scrutiny?
Are you confident that internal communications between DOC officials, and public communications to stakeholder groups by DOC officials and the Associate Minister regarding this review have been consistent in message?
Do you believe that DOC internal and external communications on this issue that have been released through OIA requests will stand up to Ombudsman, media and public application of the ‘good faith test’?
About me I am a recreational hunter and a member of the New Zealand Deerstalkers Assn, Hutt Valley Branch (HVNZDA). With 700+ members, and their families and friends, the HVNZDA is an important sporting and recreational organisation in the Lower North Island. Our members come from a broad range of occupations, trades, and professions. Our branch is one of group of 15 hunting clubs resolved to challenge the outcome of the WARO review.
Our club meetings and newsletters focus on matters that are important to recreational hunters, particularly the access to Crown land to hunt, and sharing this access with other users.
I am concerned about the DOC process for the recent review of how Wild Animal Recovery Operations (WARO) by commercial concession holders are managed. The outcome of this review impacts the thousands of recreational hunters who access the Rimutakas, Tararuas and the Ruahine Forest Park in particular.
The perception of this review among our members is that DOC have gone to lengths to exclude recreational hunters as represented by clubs like HVNZDA even though we are significantly the largest affected party.
DOC have a responsibility under the Conservation Act to foster recreational activities on the Crown estate including hunting. DOC also have a responsibility under this and other Acts to adequately consult recreational hunters.
I ask you to raise this with the Associate Minister. Our club is happy to supply you any further information you need for this matter.