The controversial tahr cull proposed by Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage will not begin this weekend as planned, but she is adamant the "summer control operation" will go ahead.

Ms Sage wants more than 17,500 of the wild goats culled by shooters in helicopters from the alpine environment of the mid-to-lower South Island, claiming the overall herd was three times larger than agreed upon and was destroying flora and fauna.

In response, the New Zealand Tahr Foundation launched an appeal last week to fund a legal injunction. To date more than $140,000 has been raised.

Read more: Petition to stop tahr cull


The issue has become a political football.

There have been questions in parliament and National's conservation spokeswoman Sarah Dowie claimed Ms Sage had "postponed" the mass cull.

Ms Sage countered "the control operation of tahr is proceeding", after consultation with interested parties.

None of the parties involved dispute there is too many tahr, but recreational and commercial hunting groups want culls over spread over three years, which would include selective culling to maintain valuable trophy animals.

The ODT approached Ms Sage's office, and was told she would be meeting the Tahr Liaison Group next week, and also the Game Animal Council and New Zealand Deerstalkers Association.

"Numbers of tahr will be reduced. I'm meeting the Tahr Liaison Group next week to discuss the finer details and the summer control operation will be proceeding as planned after that. It is nonsense to suggest otherwise," Ms Sage said.

Mrs Dowie said the minister had ordered the mass cull without adequately consulting the hunting industry or recreational hunters, and launched a petition which attracted at least 23,000 signatures.

Ms Sage countered the petition to "save tahr" was "absurd", and during its nine-year term National had "starved" the Department of Conservation of funding and tahr numbers were subsequently "allowed to explode".


"The previous government did not ensure the limits in the Himalayan Tahr Control Plan from 1993 were kept, and tahr numbers have ballooned three times higher than allowed," Ms Sage said.'