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Hunter threats concern forest owners

27 Nov 2006

Threats, abuse and disputed claims from sambar deer hunting advocates are of growing concern to forest owners in the lower North Island.

Forest Owners Association chief executive David Rhodes says forest owners and many farmers want the right to control sambar deer on their land throughout the year. 

"Sambar are highly destructive. Yet private land owners are required by regulation to host these animals for the benefit of hunters.

"The deer, which are the size of a horse, tear large strips of bark from trees, leaving them severely scarred and often ring-barked. It's a totally unacceptable situation."

The forest owners' stance is strongly opposed by the Sambar Management Foundation, a body representing deer stalkers which allocates hunting permits for sambar during a three weekend 'season' each year. The foundation accepts some relaxation of existing regulations is needed, but basically wants the existing feral herd to remain on private land.

The debate over the future of the herd is coming to a head, with the Department of Conservation asking stakeholders give feedback by 30 November on three possible options for managing the herd.

Option 1, supported by the SMF, would see existing regulations relaxed to allow for a longer hunting season, and for an increase in the bag limit to three animals per hunter per season.

Option 2 would allow land owners to determine when deer can be hunted, remove bag limits, allow dogs to be used by hunters and permit the sale of venison. However, hunters would remain restricted to the use of approved weapons and ammunition, and would be allowed to hunt only during the hours of daylight.

Option 3, which has the support of the NZ Forest Owners Association, Federated Farmers and NZ Farm Forestry Association, would remove all restrictions - apart from the provisions of the Animal Welfare Act - on the hunting and control of sambar on public and private land.

As the deadline for submissions approaches, NZ Farm Forestry Association president Nick Seymour says statements from the Sambar Management Foundation have become of growing concern.

"The personal abuse we can cope with. But the recent written threat by foundation chair Colin Harold to take action to have DoC's consultation process halted altogether if there is inadequate accommodation of hunter concerns, is totally unacceptable," Mr Seymour says.

Mr Rhodes says forest owners wish to make it clear that the foundation claim that it has a "better relationship with foresters than ever before" is without substance.

"While there has been a lot of talk with the foundation, we are as far apart as we have ever been," he says. "Their claims that forest owners want them to continue to manage hunters is simply untrue.

"The foundation also says it has proved itself with public land-managers and has reduced deer numbers in public forests over three years. Unfortunately, nearly all the land and forests in the sambar range are privately managed or on private land, where tree destruction continues unabated."

Mr Seymour and Mr Rhodes say land owner groups strongly urge their members to put in submissions supporting Option 3.

"This option gives them the right, but not the obligation, to control sambar on their properties," they say. "Because some farmers like having sambar around, the herd itself will not be threatened. But herd numbers will be reduced to a level where the damage to forests, young trees and crops is unlikely to be of economic significance."

For more information, contact:

David Rhodes, Tel 04 473 4769 or
Nick Seymour, Tel 06 862 2697