The average farmer feels like they can't do a thing right in the eyes of Fish and Game, writes Federated Farmers Senior Policy Advisor, Ewan Kelsall.

The next few weeks will see shotguns and Swanndris dusted off across the country in anticipation of the upcoming duck-shooting season.

'Opening Day' is a big deal in rural New Zealand, with 40,000 annual participants that come from both town and country.

All these hunters need somewhere to shoot, and for the majority this is a pond on private farmland, secured with nothing more than a handshake.


The other common factor is that shooters must buy a Fish and Game duck shooting licence.

Read more from Federated Farmers here.

At about $100 a throw, Fish and Game sell the rights to shoot gamebirds to the tune of several million dollars a year.

A recent Fish and Game survey showed that 30 per cent of respondents felt that licence fees were excessive. Many others did not know what Fish and Game did for their fee.

So what exactly does the shooter and fisher get for their money?

Fish and Game's government-mandated role is to create opportunities for licence holders to shoot ducks and catch trout.

This is intrinsically linked with farms and farming.

Many of the ducks shot each season are hatched, fattened and shot on farm ponds, drains and waterways.


Many trout fishers also rely on the goodwill of farmers to access their favourite local fishing spot.

You could easily think that a healthy relationship between landowners and those wanting access would be essential to securing the future of hunting and fishing in New Zealand.

Fish and Game don't seem to think so.

Instead they refuse to acknowledge the ever-growing environmental efforts of the majority of New Zealand farmers.

Habitat is key for New Zealand's largely introduced game species and Fish and Game is a vocal advocate for the protection of these natural resources.

During this advocacy process, Fish and Game has set their sights solely on one target, the New Zealand farmer.

The average farmer feels like they can't do a thing right in the eyes of Fish and Game.

Little to no recognition of their efforts to manage effluent, to fence off waterways, plant streams, retire land or build sediment and nutrient-holding wetlands.

Fish and Game has identified the farmer as their target, and they refuse to stop pulling the trigger.

Recent media against farming saw Fish and Game siding with SAFE, an animal rights activist group that actively campaigns to ban duck shooting. This must have had even the most ardent Fish and Game supporter scratching their head.

Does Fish and Game see this constant attack as helpful to the future survival of their sport?

Licence sales are on the decline, yet there seems to be no consideration that their constant negative press may be driving people away from the outdoors.

Some shooters struggle to find a hunting spot, but why would a farmer welcome you on when your parent organisation criticises every move they make.

Farming and hunting and fishing have a long history together, so why is Fish and Game trying so hard to drive them apart?

The majority of farmers like to see friends and associates enjoying their land.

They are proud of their properties and want to share it with those they trust, but by doing so this duck shooting season, they know they are helping to line the pockets of those who are actively undermining the agricultural industry.

Farmers have heard the environmental message and are doing something about it on an ever-increasing scale.

Criticism can be helpful but only when it is coupled with praise.

Just recently, Fish & Game's chief executive has written a column in which he says his organisation is not anti-farmer, but anti-polluter. This is a welcome change of tone.

It's time for Fish and Game to shift their aim and come help plant some trees, build some fences and maybe even a bridge.

As any farmer or hunter will tell you, even the most headstrong dog goes better with an occasional pat.

Ewan Kelsall is a Senior Environmental Policy Advisor for Federated Farmers. In his spare-time, he is a keen gamebird hunter and fisherman.