Submitted 20 April 2012: Read the NZCA's submission on the Game Animal Council Bill.

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Submission date: 20 April 2012
Submitted to: Local Government and Environment Select Committee

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Identification of submitter

This submission is in the name of the New Zealand Conservation Authority (Authority), 18-32 Manners Street, Wellington.

The Authority wishes to speak to it submission. Its representation will be advised once the date and timing of the hearing is known.

It can be contacted +64 4 471 3211, and PO Box 10420, Wellington 6143. Attention: Catherine Tudhope, Manager.

The Authority is a statutory body, established by section 6A of the Conservation Act 1987, having functions centred on policy and planning for conservation areas managed by the Department of Conservation.

The Authority also has the power to advocate for any conservation matter of national importance, and to take part in any statutory planning process.

The 13 members of the Authority comprise a diverse group, appointed by the Minister of Conservation on the nomination or recommendation of four specified bodies (4 members), in consultation with three specified Ministers of the Crown (5 members) and after consideration of public nominations (4 members).

The New Zealand Conservation Authority is referred to in this Bill.


[1] The Authority’s focus in this submission is on the need to maintain a cohesive, consultative and comprehensive framework for the management of public land held for conservation purposes.  That is a short statement of the Authority’s statutory purpose.


[2] The Authority opposes the establishment of the Game Animal Council and delegation of decision-making powers to it as proposed in the Bill.

[3] The Bill is against the general trend of avoiding duplication, increasing efficiency and effectiveness, reducing costs, avoid needless regulation, and recognition of the interests and values of tangata whenua.

[4] The Bill enables the fragmenting of the management of that large area of publicly owned land which is held for the purposes of conservation and outdoor recreation. This proposed fragmentation of management is a high price to pay. It is also an unnecessary one. The Authority agrees with the Department of Conservation’s advice that the stated objectives of the Bill could be achieved in a more cohesive manner through, for example, a Ministerial advisory group under the Wild Animal Control Act 1977.

[5] The Bill’s proposal to delegate management decision-making powers to a special interest group of recreational and commercial hunters is inequitable. It would create an unfortunate precedent. No other special interest group, whether recreational or commercial, has been given the power to make direct management decisions over conservation land which is owned by all of the people of New Zealand. All of various competing claims on the use and enjoyment of public conservation land are channeled through the open, participative statutory planning process and the concessions process.

[6] The conflict of interest is exacerbated by clause 7 (d), which proposes to give the Game Animal Council an advocacy role for hunting interests.

[7] The Bill, as introduced, suffers from a lack of policy analysis as a proper foundation for drafting. As a result, its statements of purpose and its definitions are circular, basic guidelines are absent and key concepts are undefined.

[8] Additionally, the technical drafting needs considerable work to remove ambiguities.

[9] The Authority’s suggested amendments in this submission do not imply support for the Bill’s central proposal to fragment the management of conservation land. The Authority remains of the view that the Bill is a solution for which there is no problem.


[10] The history of the release of introduced browsing animals into New Zealand is a litany of acts of environmental folly. Rabbits, possums, goats, tahr, deer and pigs have devastated bush and tussock lands and have accelerated large-scale soil erosion.

[11] At a considerable cost, wild animal numbers have been reduced by various measures over the last 80 years. In some areas, and with some species, control remains an uphill battle. In others, there is relative equilibrium.

[12] Private and commercial hunters have made a substantial contribution to the control of wild animal numbers. They have also established a legitimate community of interest in the management of conservation land. It is right that they should have a voice in management decisions. That is a very different thing from having direct decision-making powers.

[13] It is instructive to remember that the Fiordland Wapiti Foundation project, which has been held up as an example of a balanced interaction between hunting interests and conservation, was achieved under the existing legislation. Similarly, the Himalayan Thar Control Plan 1993 under the Wild Animal Control Act 1977 has benefits beyond the “herd of special interest” concept in that it applies over all land tenure.

Specific provisions of the Bill

Herd of special interest

[14] “Herd of special interest” is a key concept. It occurs 27 times in the body of the Bill but the definition in clause 4 is circular and clause 16, to which clause 4 refers, provides no guidance from Parliament as to the criteria for designating a herd of special interest. This could potentially split future tahr management, for example, with tahr on public conservation land managed under one plan under this Act and tahr elsewhere managed under the Himalyan Tahr Management Plan under the Wild Animal Control Act.

[15] The Bill should be amended to provide clear criteria for the designation of herds of special interest. The inclusion of the criteria in the first reading speech of Minister Dunne would provide some useful guidance: a game animal herd of a particular species or subspecies in a specific location, considered to have high value to hunters, either because of the hunting experience and the accessibility of the animals, or the quality and the significance of the trophy. An existing example of legislative direction is Part 3 of the Wild Animal Control Act 1977.

[16] Clause 16 should also prescribe an information base on which designation and consequent management can be determined. Strong monitoring conditions need to be provided as well or, at the very least, a requirement for this information to be in management plans.

[17] Recommendation: The nature and scope of a herd as outlined above, the likely impact of a herd on its habitat and the confinement of the herd within a geographically defined area are such important considerations that clause 16 should be amended to include them as statutory criteria.

Functions of the Council

[18] While it is not of direct relevance to the Authority’s role, the Authority notes that clause 7 (1) (e), requires the Game Animal Council to promote safety initiatives including firearms safety, which requirement doubles up on a function already carried out effectively by the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council, in cooperation with the Police. Parliament may wish to consider whether it wants to pass into law that two separate organisations are mandated to do the same thing.

“Improve hunting opportunities”

[19] In clause 7 (1) (e), the Game Animal Council is enjoined to “improve hunting opportunities.” The only ways in which one can improve hunting opportunities are to breed more game animals and/or to release them into areas where they do not now live.

[20] Given the historical backdrop noted in paragraphs [10] and [11] above, the Authority does not imagine that Parliament intends to authorise the breeding up of larger herds of game animals and/or the release of them into new habitats.

[21] In any event, the Authority’s role in the management of public conservation land is so pivotal in the Conservation Act that mere “liaison” between the Council and the Authority is manifestly inadequate.

[22] Recommendation: Delete clause 7 (1) (e).

Liberating animals

[23] Clauses 18 (1) (e), 20 (1) and 30 (1) can be read as contemplating that the Minister may authorise the capture, conveyance and liberation of animals from a herd of special interest into a new habitat. The Authority assumes that this is a drafting error. It does not imagine that Parliament would countenance for a moment a new release of large browsing animals into a habitat outside their defined feral range.

[24] Recommendation: Amend clauses 18 (1) (e), 20 (1) and 30 (1) to expressly prohibit the translocation of a herd of special interest or an animal or animals from a herd of special interest into a new habitat.

Delegation of Minister’s powers

[25] The Minister’s power to delegate his or her powers to the Council should be limited to the delegation of specific powers to manage the herd. Minister Dunne’s first reading speech indicates an intention to reserve the power of designation to the Minister in person. That is appropriate. A decision to designate a herd of special interest is of considerable moment. It transforms a particular herd from pest animal status to semi-protected status.

[26] The wording of clause 20 is much wider, allowing the Minister to delegate “all or any of his or her powers”, without excepting the power to designate a herd of special interest. This is inconsistent with the Minister’s speech. The designation of herds of special interest is a decision of national interest and should be reserved to the Minister in person, with accountability to Parliament.

[27] Recommendation: Amend clause 20 to reserve the power of designation of herds of special interest to the Minister, and to limit the power of delegation to the delegation of specific management functions.

Paramountcy of statutory planning documents

[28] The Authority supports all provisions in the Bill which enshrine the paramountcy of conservation general policy, general policy for national parks, conservation management strategies, national park management plans and other statutory management plans, including plans made under the Biosecurity Act. These occur in clause 4, “overriding considerations”.

[29] Recommendation: An additional clause should provide that, for the avoidance of doubt, the Council may not make any decision which is inconsistent with the statutory planning documents listed in the definition of “overriding considerations” in clause 4.


[30] The Authority has reservations and concerns as to whether trophy levies will be sufficient to fund the Council. It notes that trophies taken on safari parks and deer farms are excluded from the scope of the Bill even though they will be the locations from which many trophies are taken. It also wonders about the practicalities of identification and enforcement at the border to determine which trophies are liable for the levy and which are not.

[31] The collection and administration costs for the trophy levies will be high. The Bill does not provide a mechanism for collection and the level of compliance remains to be seen. The issue of concern to the Authority is whether any shortfall will end up coming from Vote Conservation, at the expense of other conservation programmes.

[32] The ability of the Game Animal Council to carry out its functions will depend on its ability to employ staff and to fund research. The Bill is silent on how this will be achieved and no specific provision is made for the Council to employ anyone. There is a risk that operational costs will rise, revenue will be inadequate and funding pressure will go onto Government, as the likelihood of the general hunting community being willing to pay a hunting licence fee for game animals is low. Many herds are already managed by the Department of Conservation for recreational hunting opportunities (e.g. tahr, wapiti, recreational hunting areas). The additional management costs of a Game Animal Council may not add enough value to entice hunters to pay sufficient fees to make the Council fully cost-recovered.

World Heritage Area

[33] If the control and management of tahr within the World Heritage Area is removed from the Department of Conservation’s responsibility, the Authority will no longer be able to assure the World Heritage Committee that the Himalayan Thar Control Plan and its implementation by the Department of Conservation can be relied upon to protect world heritage values.

Clause by clause analysis

[34] The Authority is opposed to this legislation which it considers is ill-conceived and will result in agencies being asked to deliver on goals which are in conflict with or duplicate those of others.

[35] However, as the Government has determined that regardless of merit and cost this Bill will be passed, the Authority makes requests on the attachment on a clause by clause basis for amendments which it considers will achieve greater clarity to the intent and meaning and improve the accountability regime for the management of resources that are owned by all New Zealanders.

Appearance before Select Committee

[36] The Authority wishes to appear before the Select Committee.

Dr Kay Booth

Previous NZCA advice on the Game Animal Council

Game Animal Council Bill

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