DOC is presently going through the process of renewing WARO permits for the next 10years 

On multiple occasions DOC has promised to involve hunters and others in the full review of the current permit system to seek a “more long-term sustainable future for the management of wild animal recovery on public conservation land in New Zealand.  The commitment to a wider review with full involvement of all parties was made to the 2015 and 2016 NZDA conferences and to the High Court during the Red Deer Foundations (LNIRDF) successful court challenge in 2017. 

The decision to involve hunters in a review came about as a result of the opposition by the LNIRDF and others, to the invalid removal of WARO closures in the Ruahines and elsewhere in the lower north island. 

The promised wider review was a much welcomed constructive opportunity for hunters to a have a fair say. We had hoped for a fresh approach from DoC, and keenly anticipated the wider review hoping that more thought to sustainable predictable game management might result.

Our optimism of such a review was premature. DoC have shown no ability to learn from past poor treatment of hunters and have now reneged on their commitment to undertake a wider review. 

Photo on left is a magnificant stag taken by WARO on the West Coast. Stags provide the highest return to commercial hunting, and many are being removed from the backcountry. These are the same animals that hunters are seeking. The ongoing removal of large numbers of stags from the places we hunt, does little for control of deer populations. The chances of stags like this surviving are minimal, but DOC has no interest in managing WARO in a way that improves the recreational hunting experience while still achieving their aims of conservation.

DOC late last year held meetings, inviting a limited number of participants to what was termed “engagement” with hunters. There we were informed of the decision to renege on the previous commitment to a WARO review.

DOC now say that they will only consult with hunters “where significant changes have occurred, to existing permits”. This means there is no opportunity to seek return of past WARO restrictions, or lobby for additional WARO restricted areas. This is not the fairness the judge wanted nor what DoC promised 

 Yet again DoC have shown the same old short sighted mentality towards management of deer. This backtrack by DOC led the Game Animal Council to conclude that there was little point in attending the meetings, so they understandably stayed away.

What was seen by DOC a few years ago as a critical situation (with the downturn in WARO activity) suddenly changed with a bit more money being paid for wild venison. We are now in another Boom-Bust cycle and DOC is totally devoid of any strategic long term thinking about the sustainability of deer management or the legitimate expectations of recreational hunters.

Currently there is little evidence to support that DOC will treat the Game Animal Council or the nation’s 50000 big game hunters in good faith with the respect our significant contribution to conservation deserves. 

DOCs interpretation of what hunters and WARO said at these farcical meetings was that the current WARO permitting system is “working well”.

What was disappointing, was a lack of a coordinated and consistent message being conveyed to DOC by recreational hunters that attended these meetings. Neither does there appear any desire by NZDA to hold DOC to account for their betrayal of hunters and the obvious favouritism towards WARO at the expense of recreational hunting. 

To advocate on behalf of recreational hunters is at the core of NZDA values and members should be asking their leadership what they are doing to counter this threat to our core activity. 

Hunters should not be complacent about deer hunting now, nor shrug off the effects that increased WARO will have. Reports indicate that helicopter deer recovery has increased substantially, with very few deer being seen in many areas, including Central Westland, Ruahines, parts of Canterbury and Otago. The days of expecting to get a stag on the open tops may fast disappear, yet again.

With the betrayal by DOC and if the next round of WARO permits are granted for 10 years, then the opportunity to achieve what this Foundation, NZDA, the Game Animal Council and most hunters have sought – a sustainable management of deer, will be lost. The GAC have publicly condemned the decision in the latest issue of the NZ Hunter magazine. The GAC intends to work through the department and the Minister of Conservation to try and get the promised WARO review, but don’t leave it to them. 

Support by hunters is needed - If you want to see a change to how deer are managed and a more sustainable WARO industry that recognizes proper management of deer benefits both hunting and the environment then do something about it.

The Foundation will be seeking legal advice regarding the departments backtrack on commitments made. That may mean yet again, returning to court to get a fair deal for hunting.


What can you do ? – ask questions

Ask DOC (the Director General is Lou Sanson ( what commitments to hunters they intend to honour and which ones are just fairy tales?

And let the Minister of Conservation ( know how you feel about the betrayal of recreational hunters by DOC and why is DoC opposed to sustainable management ?



Posted: Mon 26 Feb 2018