An agreement between hunting lobby groups and the Government over the culling of thousands of South Island tahr is a "win-win" for everyone involved, Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage has said.
But the Opposition claims the agreement the Minister reached with hunting groups is a back down.
Last night, Sage and hunting lobby groups agreed the Department of Conservation (DOC) would cull 6000 of the goat-like animals before the November breeding season.
After Christmas, DOC officials and members of the Tahr Liaison Group would meet again to determine if another cull is needed.
Previously, DoC was aiming to cull 10,000 over the next 10 months which, in addition to the 7500 animals the Tahr Liaison Group was to cull to keep the population down, brought the total to 17,500.
But Sage said after a "very constructive meeting" last night, she agreed DoC would only cull 6000 and it will do so before mid-November.
She also agreed the department would only cull females and would leave the prized bucks to hunters.
This is, however, on the condition that hunting groups – such as the Deerstalkers' Association and the NZ Game Animal Council – actively hunt female tahrs as well as the bucks.
If the upcoming cull does not adequately control the animal's population, Sage said another cull would be on the cards.
But she said the agreement reached last night would help bring the tahr population down.
DOC eastern South Island operations director Andy Roberts estimated there are at least 35,600 tahr on public conservation land.
"That's 25,600 more than what is allowed under the Himalayan Tahr Control Plan 1993 for the whole of the tahr range."
Sage's cull plan aimed to reduce the tahr population in a bid to protect the environment.
The plan came under pressure from hunters and the National Party, who were upset about the lack of consultation with hunters.
A petition to stop the cull amassed more than 20,000 signatures in 15 hours. That number has since climbed to 33,000.
Despite welcoming Sage's agreement with hunters, National's Conservation Spokeswoman Sarah Dowie has accused Sage of backing down.
"I am disappointed it has taken so long for her to show respect to hunting groups," she said.
Dowie added that the Minister has "no excuse" for not adequately consulting with the hunting industry and recreational hunters before she made the decision to cull.
"It's clear the only reason the Minister has pulled back is because the hunters were heading to court to stop her plans. Over $156,000 was raised through Givealittle to pay for lawyers to stop the cull."
Sage rejects the accusation the latest move is a back down on her behalf – "It's a win for everyone around the table."
She is pointing the finger at National for not doing enough to control the tahr population when it was in Government.
But Dowie said under the previous Government, DOC spent $288,000 a year on control the tahr population – culling about 2800 animals annually.