To: Hon Eugenie Sage, Minister of Conservation
Date: 1 July 2020
At the Authority’s June 2020 meeting, the progress in implementing the revised Himalayan Tahr Control Plan 1993 (the Control Plan) was discussed. Underway for the last 2 years, this revised implementation seeks to reinstate the management of tahr so that their population size and distribution is in accordance with the Control Plan.
The Authority continues to participate in Tahr Liaison Group meetings, where we have been briefed on the expansion in range of tahr and the large increase in numbers of tahr to at least 3-4 times the maximum population of 10,000 allowed for in the Control Plan. We are also aware of determined efforts that have been made by the Department of Conservation and the private sector to reduce tahr numbers throughout their feral range and beyond the defined extent of this feral range. We commend all those involved in these control efforts, however there is still a long way to go to reduce numbers to the agreed level in the Control Plan.
The Authority wrote to you on 2 April 2019 voicing our concerns about the population and distribution of tahr and included this reference to the proposals in the 2018-2019 tahr control operations:
National Parks: Because the total tahr population is recognised to be around 5 times the agreed total population level in the Tahr Plan, and because under the National Parks Act there is a zero tolerance level for tahr within National Parks, the NZCA considers that DOC funded tahr control activity within National Parks should now aim for removal of all tahr, and not just the removal of nannies and kids while leaving bulls behind. Reduction in tahr numbers to the agreed level will now require a major taxpayer investment in conservation within the Parks and elsewhere. When DOC funded tahr control operations occur within the National Parks, primarily Aoraki/Mt Cook and Tai Poutini/Westland National Parks, it would be most efficient for those operations to shoot all tahr encountered during the tahr hunting flights. The NZCA believes that it is vital that there exist some areas of the high Southern Alps that are unmodified by tahr. Here native plants and animals can remain unmolested by introduced pests. That was always the intent in the establishment of National Parks. The inability by DOC and the hunting community to control tahr numbers in accordance with the Tahr Plan has undermined that statutory obligation contained in the National Parks Act.
You responded to us on 8 May 2019 advising that the formal tahr control operations in 2018-2019 would not include shooting Bull Tahr in the national parks, but “the control of tahr in National Parks will however be a key consideration in establishing the detailed plan for tahr management post 30 August 2019”.
We understand that the revised plan now calls for the shooting of all tahr in the National Parks including bulls. We also note that National Parks make up a minority of the area of the tahr feral range.
The Authority would like to give its full support to the policy of total control of all tahr within the National Parks and continued efforts to achieve a tahr population level and feral distribution in accordance with the 1993 Himalayan Tahr Control Plan.
E noho ora mai
Edward Ellison ONZM