Fish and Game is urging avid hunters and anglers to stay home during the alert level four lockdown, disappointing hunters and disturbing deer hunting plans.
The red stag hunting season, called the roar, lasts from now until mid- to late-April. The weekends either side of Easter are the most popular for hunters. But Fish & Game New Zealand chief executive Martin Taylor said hunters and anglers should stay home during alert level four just like everyone else, in case they need rescue, putting pressure on emergency services.
"The advice we have is that at alert level four anglers and hunters should not undertake activities that expose them and others to higher levels of risk. DOC huts and campsites are closed as they do not meet minimum separation requirements.
"It is heartbreaking to not be able to spend time in the outdoors, especially as for many of us this is our main way to de-stress, but we all have our part to play to beat Covid-19.
"The point of the next four weeks is to kill the virus in New Zealand so that life goes back to normal as quickly as possible. Let's stay home for four weeks then we can get outdoors and back into angling and hunting."
New Zealand Deerstalkers' Association Rotorua branch president Colin Petersen said the rules were disappointing but understandable.
"It's just another sport that's been affected. We're all disappointed but that's what we've got to do.
"The guys will have been looking forward to it but I hope they abide by the rules."
Petersen said some hunters planned their trips months in advance and some were flown in, so that would not be able to happen.
"This has come at the wrong time, there'll be a lot of commitments but we're not the only ones in this boat."
The association had also closed its shooting range.
"It'll be hard but that's life."
He said game animals would still be there when the alert level dropped.
"I don't think there's a shortage of deer.
""They'll only get bigger that's the beauty of it.
"It's not forever, it's only four weeks."
The game bird season is likely to go ahead as the level four lockdown period is scheduled to end before the start of the season.
But high-profile Canterbury University criminologist Greg Newbold said not being able to out solo fishing, hunting, tramping or surfing was just "dumb".
He said it was important for people's mental health and wellbeing and their relationships to enjoy recreational activities.
"It is stupid and completely contrary to common sense and defies logic. These are precisely the type of things that are likely to defuse tensions in a household."
New Zealand Search and Rescue was also asking people to avoid areas where they could get lost or require rescue to ensure emergency services were free to help those in the greatest need.
NZSAR said "staying in and around home is simply the right thing to do".
The Ministry of Health's Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield told media this week people needed to act responsibly.
"If they are going off hunting somewhere where they may require search and rescue, that would be taking people out of the front line who might otherwise be needed to help us in our national response."
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