To: Hon Eugenie Sage, Minister of Conservation
Date: 2 April 2019
At our February 2019 meeting, the NZCA received the DOC 2017-18 annual report for the Tahr Management Plan. This was discussed in detail by the full Authority, and we provide a response to you with our views. The Authority understood the background to the suspension of the Tahr Control Programme that followed the tragic October 2018 Wanaka helicopter crash, and we are very pleased that the programme has now recommenced. We welcome your commitment to implementing the programme with the goal being to bring tahr numbers down towards the agreed level in the Tahr Management Plan.
- Tahr Census: We are pleased that the latest report tightens up the total population estimates on Public Conservation Land to the 35,000 level. The margin of error is much less than the 50% margin of error figure previously suggested to us in DOC’s 2016-17 report. There is more confidence that this high population figure is the accurate number. We are also very surprised to be advised that the total tahr population could be in excess of 50,000 animals with the addition of tahr numbers on pastoral lease land (administered by LINZ) and private land (where the Wild Animal Control Act applies). This makes it vital for a coordinated approach to lowering the number of tahr to the agreed 10,000 population in the Tahr Plan across land of all tenures. This will help prevent infiltration by tahr into DOC managed areas with lowered populations from high tahr density areas outside public conservation land.
- Pastoral Lease Land: The NZCA welcomes the Government announcement halting the tenure review process and advising that pastoral lease land will remain under Crown ownership in the long term. The new policy means that pastoral lease land will in future be more tightly managed for a range of sustainable land management purposes including nature conservation. This also provides clear policy direction for LINZ staff. In future LINZ staff will have a much stronger mandate where there are uncontrolled tahr numbers on pastoral leases located outside the agreed feral range for tahr defined within the Tahr Plan.
- 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.
- Taonga Species at risk: NZCA member and Ngāi Tahu appointee Tāne Davis registered the interest of Ngāi Tahu in overseeing the implementation of the tahr control operation. He noted that taonga species listed under the Ngāi Tahu Settlement Act 1998 are at risk because of unacceptably high tahr numbers causing damage to the alpine plants and habitats. Tāne also supported the recovery of tahr carcasses for a game meat operation, if this was possible and economically efficient, to avoid wastage of the meat.
- Expansion of Range: NZCA strongly supports every effort being made to eliminate tahr outside their previous “feral range” defined in the Tahr Plan. NZCA views with major concern tahr populations within Mt Aspiring National Park south of the Haast Pass and significant tahr populations on pastoral lease and conservation lands that adjoin Fiordland and Arthur’s Pass National Parks. NZCA also recognises that the natural values of many South Island Conservation Parks and Conservation Areas are threatened by elevated and expanding tahr populations.
The Conservation Parks all within the present and expanding range of tahr total over 1 million hectares and include from north to south:
- Craigieburn Forest Park.
- Korowai-Torlesse Tussockland Park
- Hakatere (Ashburton Lakes) Conservation Park
- Te Kahui Kaupeka (2 Thumb Range) Conservation Park
- Ruataniwha (Ben Ohau-Hopkins-Dobson) Conservation Park
- Ahuriri Conservation Park
- Hawea (Hunter Valley) Conservation Park
- Oteake (Hawkdun-St Bathans) Conservation Park
- Te Papanui Conservation Park.
- Kopuwai (Old Man Range) Conservation Area
- Taka Ra Haka/Eyre Mountains Conservation Park
- Mavora Lakes Conservation Park.
Thank you Minister for the opportunity to present our views on the future management of tahr, to ensure that in future this complies with the provisions of the Tahr Management Plan.
E noho ora mai
Edward Ellison ONZM