Introduction

Answers to questions you may have about the Tahr Control Operational Plan for 2020/2021.

This page was updated 1 September 2020 and may be updated from time to time.  

What has changed in the Operational Plan after the consultation process?

The reconsidered operational plan has resulted in a range of outcomes:

  • A formal assurance that DOC will avoid targeting tahr in popular recreational hunting areas located outside the national parks’ management unit.
  • DOC will explore options to improve opportunities for recreational hunting, guided hunting, and commercial recovery of tahr. This will include options to extend the tahr ballot, options to improve hunter access, the provision of maps with information on bull sightings and easy-to-access areas with high tahr numbers, as well as communication with hunting permit holders.
  • DOC is committed to learning as it goes. We will invite the Game Animal Council to a discussion on the operational results of control to date. DOC will consider the Council’s advice in determining the operational detail of work for the remaining control effort outside the national parks’ management unit.
  • DOC will urgently progress plans to work with Ngāi Tahu, researchers and stakeholders to develop an integrated research and monitoring programme by 10 December 2020. The implementation of this programme will begin over summer.
  • DOC’s discussion with the Game Animal Council will include whether to cease all further planned control in the Wills, Makarora and Hunter areas (Management Unit 7).

What hasn’t changed in the Operational Plan? 

The priorities of the original Operational Plan remain:

  • Targeting all tahr in Aoraki/Mt Cook and Westland Tai Poutini National Parks to the lowest practicable densities to protect and preserve these special places.

  • Controlling high densities of female and juvenile tahr across the tahr feral range to reduce tahr impacts and population spread, while leaving smaller groups and identifiable males outside the national parks for hunters.
  • Important control outside the tahr feral range to stop the geographical range of tahr from expanding.

  • Working with Land Information New Zealand to understand tahr numbers on Crown pastoral leases.

DOC will achieve this by:

  • Undertaking up to another 132 hours of control inside the feral range. (DOC has already completed 118 hours since mid-July).
  • DOC will consider the Game Animal Council’s advice in determining the operational detail of work for the remaining control effort outside the national parks’ management unit. Control work in the national parks will proceed while this occurs.
  • Outside the feral range, DOC will target all tahr to stop the geographical range expanding. 

Why have the hours of control remained the same?

We plan to undertake up to 250 hours of aerial tahr-control on public conservation inside of the feral range management units  We have completed 118 hours already and will undertake up to another 132 hours.

The 250 hours of control effort in the management units for 2020/21 was determined on the basis of population estimates undertaken between 2016 to 2019, data captured during last year’s control programme, and from observations by staff and contractors after last year’s control.

Population monitoring between 2016 and 2019 shows there were approximately 34,500 tahr on public conservation land alone last Autumn. While DOC, commercial hunters and contractors removed approximately 11,000 tahr, there has since been another breeding season.

DOC still needs to remove high densities and reduce the overall population within the limits of the Himalayan Thar Control Plan 1993.

DOC will invite the Game Animal Council to a discussion on the operational results to date, before proceeding with control outside of the national park’s management unit.

DOC will continue to leave bull tahr for hunters across 425,000ha of public conservation land outside of the national park’s management unit. There is also 133,000 ha of Crown pastoral leases and private land which is where the vast majority of commercial tahr hunting takes place. 

Why is DOC controlling all tahr within the national park’s management unit?

New Zealand’s national parks contain some of our most treasured natural areas and we have a responsibility to protect and preserve them for future generations of New Zealanders.

We are legally required to reduce tahr in Management Unit 4 (Aoraki/Mount Cook and Westland Tai Poutini National Parks and surrounding areas) to the lowest practicable densities.

The national parks management unit is the only place inside of the feral range where we are targeting all tahr.

There will continue to be thousands of bulls and other tahr available for hunting located outside of the national parks.

What control is DOC undertaking outside of the feral range?

All stakeholders have agreed stopping the geographical spread of tahr outside of the feral range is a priority.

DOC will spend up to 145 hours targeting all tahr in the exclusion zones and outside of the feral range.

Since January 2019, we have removed more than 900 tahr from outside of the feral range, including 500 at Mt Hutt. Tahr migration is a significant threat to conservation values and once tahr establish and breed in a new place the cost to remove them is substantial. 

Why doesn’t the Operational Plan include all the submission requests?

While we were able to consider requests that were included within the scope of the annual operational plan, we acknowledge the finalised plan will not be able to completely satisfy all stakeholders, as submitters sought very different outcomes.

What did the High Court decision allow?

As part of Justice Dobson’s decision, DOC has been able to undertake half of its planned control programme inside of the feral range (up to 125 of 250 hours) while it undertook further consultation on the Operational Plan.

The Judge upheld only one aspect of the NZ Tahr Foundation’s (NZTF) complaint, which was a partial inadequacy by DOC to not provide the NZTF with the number of control hours it was proposing to undertake in a reasonable timeframe for feedback.

The Judge instructed DOC to reconsider its decision to proceed with the rest of 2020-2021 plan after consulting with stakeholders. Importantly, DOC could undertake half of its proposed control as its saw fit until that consultation was completed.

The reserved judgment of Justice Dobson (PDF, 160K) 

How was the reconsidered Tahr Control Operational Plan 2020/2021 developed?

An annual Tahr Control Operational Plan is a requirement of the statutory Himalayan Thar Control Plan 1993 which sets an overall limit of 10,000 tahr over Crown pastoral leases, private, and public conservation land.

The Operational Plan describes how DOC will undertake Himalayan tahr control on public conservation land.

The original Operational Plan was approved in June following an engagement process with members of the Tahr Plan Implementation Liaison Group. DOC took the views of stakeholders into consideration while ensuring the plan was consistent with the National Parks Act and other laws.

Following a legal challenge on the original Tahr Control Operational Plan for 2020/2021, a decision from the High Court allowed DOC to complete up to 125 hours of aerial tahr-control while consulting stakeholders on the plan.

Justice Dobson upheld only one aspect of the NZ Tahr Foundation’s (NZTF) complaint, which was a partial inadequacy by DOC to not provide the NZTF with the number of control hours it was proposing to undertake in a reasonable timeframe for feedback.

DOC has since analysed oral and written submissions from 14 stakeholders representing the interests of recreational and commercial tahr hunters, as well as conservationists, recreationists, and statutory bodies.

We considered each submission with an open mind. The reconsidered plan allows for the recreational and commercial hunting of thousands of trophy bulls and other tahr on and off public conservation land, while still moving DOC towards meeting the goals of the statutory Himalayan Thar Control Plan 1993.

How many tahr have been controlled since July 2020?

Since mid-July 2020, DOC has flown 118 hours of search and control and controlled approximately 4,700 tahr on public conservation land.

Tahr controlled to date include:

  • 2,750 female and juvenile tahr that have been controlled across less than 15% of 425,000 ha of public conservation land (this is the public conservation land located outside the national parks).
  • Outside the national parks’ Management Unit, DOC is only targeting high densities and is not targeting identifiable males. Group sizes have generally ranged between 10 to 30 animals. Smaller groups of tahr are being left for hunters in these areas.
  • 1,950 tahr have been controlled from Aoraki/Mount Cook and Westland Tai Poutini Management Unit to protect these special places.
  • Management Unit 4 (national parks) is the only location inside the feral range where DOC is targeting all tahr. We are not targeting identifiable males anywhere else.

How will the commercial hunting industry be affected?

As the vast majority of commercial hunting is undertaken outside of the national parks and off public conservation land, DOC’s Tahr Control Operational Plan for 2020/2021 will have a minimal impact on the commercial hunting industry.

Data from trophy exports between 2014 and 2016, indicates on average, 1,000 to 1,100 commercially hunted bull tahr leave the country each year.

Concession returns show just 316 trophy bull tahr are commercially hunted on the conservation estate annually, and less than a hundred of those are taken from the national parks.

Will Wild Animal Control Operators and Aerially Assisted Trophy Hunting concessionaires take part in the control operation?

Access for international visitors is currently restricted, which will result in a significant reduction in the total number of tahr shot from the commercial sector this year with a reduction of up to 300 trophies. As a result, there will likely be minimal environmental contributions from Aerially Assisted Trophy Hunters (AATH), (where five females/juveniles are shot for each trophy under a AATH concession).

A reduced amount of Wild Animal Recovery Operations (WARO) can be expected over the coming year. WARO may contribute throughout the tahr range except in May and June (this requires appropriate concessions to be applied for and issued for public conservation land).

How is DOC protecting conservation areas outside of the national park’s management unit?

Himalayan tahr have the biggest impact on the environment when they are in high densities. DOC is focusing on removing high tahr densities (or large group sizes) to protect conservation land, including the wilderness areas on the West Coast.

Will the tahr ballots go ahead next year?

Yes, the tahr ballots will go ahead. DOC is exploring options to extend the tahr ballot. More information will be released shortly.

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