Phil Caira and I attended the COLFO anniversary held at the NZDA House in Wellington recently; it was a great opportunity to meet some of the personalities who’ve had a significant impact on the organisation and to learn about the historical reasons COLFO exists today. The networking was interesting, and the facility that the Wellington branch of the NZDA have was eye-opening. Most importantly, a lot of the chat was around firearms advocacy in the future and what a combined effort looks like given the multitude of threats we face both societally and legislatively. It was heartening to hear similar themes of teamwork, cohesion and open communication being the central talking points. Let’s hope for everyone’s sake, we’re able to come up with a workable umbrella organisation that simplifies our message, combines our advocacy capabilities and establishes us as formidable opponents when required.
Seeing the NZDA facility also raises another aspect of the transformation of our hunting and firearms organisations, and that’s one of relevancy and image. Relevancy is crucial, because to be effective and garner members and supporters, you need be seen as providing something of importance to the community. With the recent collaboration between the Department of Conservation (DOC) and NZDA to manage deer populations in the Nelson Lakes District – by dropping hunters into the relevant areas, increasing land sites for helicopters and providing discounted helicopter fees – the NZDA have improved both image and relevancy, all the while increasing partnership with DOC and proving we’re an effective and crucial tool in maintaining a balance between our environment and game animal populations. Couple this with the management hunts conducted by the Sika Foundation and the many other admirable initiatives recently and we’ve taken huge strides forward to winning over middle NZ. Middle NZ probably has an uncle who hunts and is interested in hunting themselves but doesn’t know where to start. Middle NZ possibly doesn’t have a strong opinion on firearms but might like to try going rabbiting with their kids. Middle NZ has seen clay target shooting during the Olympics and thinks it looks fun. Middle NZ is the future of firearms ownership and use in NZ.
We’ll never convince the hardcore antis of our right to live as we do; our long-term survival depends on convincing average Kiwis on the merits of hunting, firearms use and its benefits. For that, we need a strong combined voice that repeatedly offers real value to NZ, its environment and its people.