Recreational hunters cannot compete with commercial aerial operations and there is a "huge concern" among some hunters valuable recreational hunting areas could be opened up to Wild Animal Recovery Operations (Waro) as the Department of Conservation refreshes its 2015 maps.
Lifelong hunter Pete Henderson, of Cromwell, was one of about 50 hunters who attended a Department of Conservation (Doc) meeting in Cromwell yesterday on the 2018 Waro land assessment process.
He said he was surprised 50 had attended a 9.30am mid-week meeting.
"The reality is ... we are so uninformed," he said.
"That's the concern we have. There are massive, massive amounts of country that are inaccessible to the average person, so why not let them use those areas ... ?"
New areas of public conservation land, which had not previously been assessed for Waro access, land that had a change in land status or was covered by new management planning documents, and changes to Waro access for land previously assessed in the 2015 concession where issues had cropped up, were all being reassessed.
Of note was the Ruataniwha Conservation Area, proposed to be opened up to Waro operators. Immediately next to Aoraki National Park, the area offered the "perfect opportunity" for hunters to prove their worth as conservationists.
Areas that could be valuable to recreational hunters and the recreational hunting industry could have their stock of game animals depleted by aerial operators, if Waro operators were permitted.
"You've got nothing [no game to hunt], you've got a whole big conservation area with nothing, and there's no real reason to go into there," Mr Henderson said.
Professional hunting guide Gerald Telford, of Wanaka, said Mr Henderson's concerns were "widespread" among the hunting community, but he believed "it's not going unnoticed" by the Department of Conservation and Waro operators."
"It's one of those things that hunters have just got to be vigilant, and keep an eye out for these things, and make sure that they ask to be in attendance when these meetings take place," he said.
"There is a huge concern. One of the biggest things is getting access to the places that Waro isn't."
When Waro operators did have access to places accessible to recreational hunters "it's not really a level playing field" with aerial operations able to "clean out an area".
"Leave it alone for the recreational hunters and take your commercial practices somewhere that perhaps won't cause an impact or a conflict."
Written submissions close on June 30, but the Doc website shows a "targeted follow up" from mid-July and a decision on Waro permit areas by mid-August.
Doc spokesman Des Williams could not immediately say how much land was Waro permitted nor how much was proposed to change.
"Use by hunters and other recreation users is taken into account as part of the process," he said.
"The department [Doc] has done its best to ensure notification of the various stages of the Waro review process have been targeted specifically at stakeholders (operators, deerstalker groups and other key recreational interest groups) in a robust process."