Wildlife Act 1953
IntroductionThe Wildlife Act 1953 outlines the protection and control of wild animals and birds and the management of game.
View the full Wildlife Act 1953 on the New Zealand Legislation website.
The Wildlife Act deals with the protection and control of wild animals and birds and the management of game. Permits are necessary to deal with certain wildlife.
As part of the effort to modernise conservation legislation, in December 2021 the Minister of Conservation announced a review of the Wildlife Act 1953.
More about the conservation law reform work programme.
In this section
Parts of the Act
Part I - Protection of Wildlife
Most species of wildlife (including mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians), native or introduced, are absolutely protected under the Act. No-one may kill or have in their possession any such bird or animal, unless they have a permit.
To facilitate limited harvest of certain wildlife species, or manage adverse effects they cause, a species may be given a lower level of protection. Such species are listed on one of schedules 1 to 6 of the Act, with the lower level of protection determined by which schedule the species is listed on (see bullet points below for details).
The Act also provides protection to a small number of terrestrial invertebrates and marine species. These species need to be listed on Schedules 7 or 7A of the Wildlife Act in order to be absolutely protected (if not listed they are unprotected).
To find what protection a particular species has, it is necessary to consult the schedules to the Act to see which, if any, schedule the species is listed on:
- Not listed on any schedule (the default protection) means absolutely protected. No-one may kill or have in their possession any such bird or animal, unless they have a permit.
- Listed on Schedule 1 means the species is managed by Fish and Game Councils for the benefit of recreational hunters. People need to hold a current game licence and comply with game hunting regulations to be allowed to hunt the species.
- Listed on Schedule 2 (‘partially protected’) means the species may be hunted or killed if it is causing damage to land or property, including crops. Otherwise these species are protected.
- Listed on Schedule 3 means the species may be hunted, killed or held in possession subject to conditions specified by the Minister of Conservation in the NZ Gazette. Duck hunting seasons on the Chatham Islands and the taking of mutton birds on mutton bird islands are provided for under such notices.
- Schedule 4 lists wildlife that is unprotected throughout New Zealand, except where the Minister of Conservation declares otherwise through a Gazette notice. This schedule currently has no species listed.
- Listed on Schedule 5 means the species is not protected. Anyone can hunt, kill, or have in their possession any wildlife listed on this schedule at any time (no permit is required). Most farmed species are listed on this schedule.
- Listed on Schedule 6 means the species is not protected under the Wildlife Act but is administered under the Wild Animal Control Act 1977.
- Listed on Schedule 7 means the invertebrate species is absolutely protected. Native invertebrates that are not listed remain unprotected.
- Listed on Schedule 7A means the marine species is absolutely protected. Marine species that are not listed remain unprotected under the Wildlife Act, although harvesting may be restricted or prohibited under Fisheries Act regulations.
Most native bird, bat, reptile and frog species are absolutely protected, and many common introduced bird and animal species are not protected. Some native and some introduced bird species have limited protection to maintain their numbers while allowing for some harvest or control.
Part I also sets out the provisions relating to the following categories of land:
Areas of land set aside for the protection of wildlife and subject to any prohibition or restriction imposed by proclamation. All wildlife in wildlife sanctuaries are deemed to be absolutely protected wildlife with some exceptions. Public access is restricted.
Areas of land set aside to protect wildlife and game birds and subject to any prohibition or restriction imposed by proclamation or notice.
Wildlife Management Reserves
Areas managed to benefit wildlife and subject to any prohibition or restriction imposed by proclamation.
Areas mainly set aside for purposes of the Wildlife Act. Either the department or a fish and game council will control the wildlife district.
Part II - Game
Outlines provisions relating to the management of game bird hunting such as setting open seasons, restrictions on take and licences.
Part III - Administration
Deals with such administrative matters as establishing wildlife districts, making provision for rangers, setting out powers of the Minister of Conservation and Director-General of Conservation, and specifying the functions of the New Zealand game bird habitat trust board.
Part IV - Injurious Birds
Local authorities can apply to destroy species of birds that, by their habits or their excessive increase, have become or threaten to become injurious. Provisions include submission of plans, appointment of inspectors, concerted action and obstruction of inspectors.
Part V - General Provisions
Covers a range of provisions such as authorising the keeping of specimens in museums, ownership of animals, homing pigeons, liberations or export of animal or birds, authorisation to take or kill wildlife for certain purposes, and control of dogs.