With the elections now over, we – as a community – can start to forge new relationships with the new ministers relevant to hunters and licensed firearms holders in New Zealand. Good, bad, or ugly democracy is what it is, and just because we didn’t get the result many of us wanted, we must accept the process and work as best we can with what we have.
There were, however, many positives to come out of the election. With the support of FAL holders, we sent a strong message to government by giving the ACT Party its highest results since its inception. Although they’re not part of the government, the message was clear – outdoors people and firearms owners are not to be discounted and may well hold the power balance in future elections.
With a new conservation minister also comes new opportunities for a better relationship – one that balances the needs and desirable outcomes for all stakeholders. It’s encouraging to hear, after only a few weeks, that the minister is already engaging with the Game Animal Council (GAC) to discuss policy for the next three years.
In a recent survey of stakeholders, the GAC asked what would an acceptable management plan look like? – one that considers the value of our game animals and their positive impact on New Zealand. To my mind, it would be based on solid science – on carrying capacities of the various national parks and public land – not on emotion, opinion or with the influence of lobbyist groups. In areas where culling or herd reduction needs to happen, hunters should be the first port of call with the meat distributed to the those in need as the Fiordland Wapiti Foundation have demonstrated. The plan would balance the sex and type of animals culled with achieving a healthy herd and, if possible, increase trophy potential. This conversation is one the GAC is going to be having with DOC over the coming months, and we all need to consider what the ideal outcome is for all stakeholders – not just hunters; cooperation is the key.
Long term, we need to grow our sport, team; whether it’s smallbore shooting or big game hunting, we need numbers. Physical votes are a powerful tool in preserving our way of life and a reduction in numbers must be avoided. This is something we can all put our shoulders to.