Dunne targets 2013 for heli-hunting ban

By Amelia Romanos

United Future's Peter Dunne proposes a ban on helicopter hunting by 2013. Photo / NZPA
United Future's Peter Dunne proposes a ban on helicopter hunting by 2013. Photo / NZPA

Heli-hunting appears to be headed for its last season, with United Future leader Peter Dunne eager to outlaw the practice by 2013.

Mr Dunne won a concession to stop guided helicopter hunting on conservation land in a deal signed with National yesterday, and said he would be starting work on the issue immediately.

The ban relates specifically to cases in which game animals are found using helicopters and hunters are dropped into wilderness areas for short periods of time, and in which helicopters are used to herd and haze animals. It would not affect wild animal rescue operations or cases in which people were dropped off by helicopter to hunt for days at a time.

The Deerstalkers' Association has welcomed the move, with president Tim McCarthy saying heli-hunting impinged on people's rights to backcountry quiet, and also amounted to cruelty to animals.

"The heli-hunting involves herding and hazing, which pretty much runs the animal off their feet or drives the animal back towards the waiting hunter.

The ethics of are hunting are not there, the animal has no chance of escape," he said.

Mr Dunne said the first step would be to hold talks with sector groups and, assuming legislation was needed, he expected new rules to be in place in the next year or so.

"By the time you get a bill drafted and through Parliament, I would think it would be reasonable to look at the first half of 2013."

However, Colin Withnall QC, the legal representative for aerial assisted helicopter hunting groups, said closing down the industry would cost the New Zealand economy millions.

In addition to the nearly $200,000 the Department of Conservation received for heli-hunting permits, Mr Withnall said it was not uncommon for a single client to spend $100,000 on a hunting trip.

As well as the 16, largely South Island-based, organisations that would be directly affected, Mr Withnall said many more who were associated with the business indirectly would also lose out.

With regard to concerns over ethics, Mr Withnall said the argument was nonsense.

"If you talk about herding and hazing, that has gone on since man first learnt to hunt," he said.

"What's different from using a helicopter to manoeuvre an animal, to releasing a pack of dogs to chase down and corner a pig and hold it until a hunter arrives with a knife to stick it?"

Professional Hunting Guides Association president Don Patterson said he opposed the herding and hazing aspects, but that modification rather than a complete shut down was needed.

In any case, Mr Dunne's timeframe was not feasible, he said.

"It's not something you can just ban, I'd hope that they would phase it in. The end of 2013 is the earliest he could even consider it.

"These people have booked their hunts well in advance, it's not fair on the professionals who are out there making a living on it."

- APNZ

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