We had our last meeting on 9 May. Parties there were LNIRDF, WARO reps  (Wairarapa Helicopters) , Game Animal Council, NZDA (Geoff Kerr) DoC staff and science reps. Don Adams from Conservation Board. AND  new NZDA National office rep  Rob Howey.

The outcome will be a plan for the “sustainable management deer in the forest park that exists in harmony with the ecosystem of the forest park”. This plan does not appear to have any precedent so its new territory for everyone and progress might seem a bit slow at time

The Deer Plan versus the CMS. The draft CMS does not indicate that the policies in the deer Plan will be adopted legally. The existing park management plan has specific deer policies relating to WARO that have benefitted hunters. We want this to continue in the CMS. The deer plan will specify deer/WARO policies but the CMS needs to acknowledge these, otherwise the Deer Plan will have no “teeth”

Thanks to all those that submitted to the CMS recently. Hopefully it showed DOC the interest in hunting in the Lower North island forest parks

Monitoring and Thresholds The Goal of the deer plan is to have a” Sustainable deer population that is in harmony with a resilient Forest”  A key to the new plan, is defining what are the thresholds for deer density that are compatible with a “resilient” forest. Or for that matter, what is a “resilient” forest. Views from DOC scientific staff suggested that the presence of some highly palatable native species only found in fenced "exclosure plots" (ie in the total absence of deer) could be used as a “benchmark”. This provoked a fair bit of discussion at the march meeting and again at the last meeting of 9 may. Then it was suggested to deer densities of the 1980s (at the height of the WARO activity and an all time low in deer numbers) . Our view was, this isn’t suitable. We have had the current situation for the last 30 years, and it hasn’t been an issue with DOC. (surveys in the mid 2000s didn’t highlight any major concerns about deer numbers). In the end, it was suggested that simply the status quo should be used as the benchmark for future deer density targets. Basically, it appears that some DOC staff were wanting to “Raise the Bar” simply because we’re now in discussions about deer management. It amounts to Shifting the Goal posts. Hopefully good sense will prevail.

The Deer Plan requirements As this is a new type of plan, progress in deciding just what a plan looks like has been slow. DOC presented a suggested format so this should get underway. If successfully completed, then this may well set the scene for similar discussions elsewhere in the country. Ruahine Conservation Management Plan revoking.

The protection of the No WARO zones that have been in place for many years, is through the forest park Management Plan. We are concerned that if the existing management plan is revoked (as DOC plan to do), before the new Deer Plans is in place, then it leaves the current WARO exclusions at risk of being opened to helicopters. At the previous meeting, in March 2017,  it was explained that we should lobby for retention of the management plan until the Deer Plan becomes operative, thru submissions to the CMS. The LNIRDF submission prepared by Gordon made it clear this wasn’t an option, in our opinion.

Rec Hunting permit Survey Game Animal Council rep Geoff Kerr has been setting up a questionnaire survey of Ruahine Hunting permit applicants. The survey gives hunters the opportunity to describe their preferred hunting experiences so that the working group can consider options for improved management of deer. A link is provided on the DOC permit application webpage for the Ruahines. It takes you to the GAC website and the survey. Geoff indicated uptake of the survey was fairly low. So far about 100 questionnaire’s have been submitted.

Pilot Vegetation/Deer Monitoring Project The future monitoring of deer in the Ruahines will use a modified version of the Pellet Lines first established by the Forest Service. This means establishing a baseline of data, which will be compared to changes in data over time. There will also be vegetation survey work started. DOC have suggested establishing a pilot project to test this. This could be in the Southern end of the range, or the Orua-Pouragnaki-Kawhatau zone, still to be decided.

Lot of issues still to be sorted. If it can be, it could be a template for similar sustainable deer management in the Lower North island

What is the desired vegetation state?

When Thresholds for deer density are agreed, how this is maintained will be a bit of a debate. Ie is it left to rec hunters and only use WARO if the targets cant be met??

Or are WARO entitled to harvest a share of the target reduction each year. Our view is that hunters should be left to it, until proven thru monitoring that we cant meet the target harvest.

Or what is the harvest by WARO. Ie Hinds only?

Can rec hunters contribute more to managing deer numbers by more female harvest  and   less males ? If WARO is allowed, which areas?

Overall, still a  long way to go

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