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Animal Welfare Strategy and Legislation Review - NZCA submission

Submission date: 26 September 2012
Submitted to: Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI)

Wild goat.
Wild goat

Summary of submission:

  1. The New Zealand Conservation Authority’s interest in this consultation is confined to animals in the wild. 
  2. The Authority agrees it is important to ensure that generally accepted hunting and pest management activities are not prevented by these proposals. 
  3. The Authority is opposed to it being an offence to wilfully or recklessly ill-treat an animal in the wild but would support extreme ill-treatment of an animal in the wild being an offence.
  4. The Authority does not consider that regulations for the welfare of animals in the wild are needed, practical or enforceable.

The Authority’s interest in the proposals:

The New Zealand Conservation Authority’s interest in this consultation is confined to animals in the wild.  This interest traverses indigenous animals and introduced animal pests and their control, including animals in the wild upon which a recreational activity is based. The Authority has statutory functions relating to these interests under the Conservation Act and the National Parks Act.  Specifically, unless the Authority determines otherwise, introduced animals in national parks should be exterminated and native plants and animals should be preserved.  In addition the Authority approves conservation management strategies, statements of general policy for national parks, and national park management plans.  Public conservation lands and resources are managed by the Department in accordance with the provisions of these strategies, policies and plans.

Hunting and pest management not prevented:

The Authority’s benchmark when considering the Animal Welfare Matters proposals, and in support of which its other comments are made, is the statement on page 29 “it will be important to ensure that generally accepted hunting and pest management activities are not prevented by this proposal”.

Wilfully or recklessly ill-treat an animal in a wild state:

The Authority notes that “the Government is proposing to clarify in the Act that extreme conduct that goes beyond acceptable practice when hunting, fishing or controlling pests could be subject to a charge of ill-treatment” (page 5). This is rephrased on page 29 as “..the Government proposes to prevent extreme conduct that goes beyond acceptable conduct when hunting, fishing or controlling pests by clarifying that it is an offence to wilfully or recklessly ill-treat an animal in a wild state” (our bold).

The Authority cannot object to extreme conduct being the subject of condemnation but it thinks there are risks inherent in interpreting what is wilful and reckless ill-treatment in the wild that may outweigh any perceived benefits.

The Authority considers there is a risk that those who oppose activities such as pest control and various forms of hunting will seek to use the Act to prevent such activity; alleging that any deliberate death of an animal is wilful ill-treatment and that many necessary control methods are reckless ill-treatment.

It is not only the Department of Conservation that could be the object of such allegations. Other land managers (including councils, iwi, landowners with biodiversity protection covenants, farmers controlling rabbits, community and landcare groups, Land Information New Zealand, Landcorp), recreational, commercial and customary hunters and fishers, the proposed Game Animal Council, and Fish and Game Councils may all also be accused and impeded in carrying out their normal and necessary activities.

Animal pests are controlled because of the damage they do. Consequences of pests include the extinction or near extinction of native plants and animals (e.g. kakapo by stoats and kokako by rats), degraded forest canopy and soil run-off (e.g. by possums), loss of taonga species and New Zealand identity (e.g. kiwi by ferrets and dogs). Economic and social benefits from healthy ecosystems such as clean water, carbon sequestration, and tourism based on their attributes are also adversely impacted.  Economist, Geoff Bertram, quantified the cost of pests to the New Zealand economy as around 1% of GDP per year, plus intangibles, in his 1999 paper The impact of introduced pests on the New Zealand Economy which was commissioned by the Authority.

Since the passage of the Animal Welfare Act in 1999, the Department of Conservation from its own research and using its own resources, and also working with others (e.g. Landcare Research, inventors and the Animal Health Board) has made successive improvements in the field of animal pest control to avoid causing unreasonable or unnecessary pain and suffering of pests and non-target species. Constant improvement in practices and technologies is “business as usual” for the Department.

The Authority is therefore opposed to it being an offence to wilfully or recklessly ill-treat an animal in the wild but would support extreme ill-treatment being an offence.

Regulations and enforceable standards:

The discussion paper in proposing that codes of welfare be replaced with a mix of regulations (page 14) or enforceable standards (page 16 Q5) and guidelines makes no specific reference to animals in the wild.  However one of the examples of a possible regulation – welfare of animals being transported - could have application to animals taken from the wild, including native species, so for the avoidance of doubt the Authority is providing comments on this proposal. The Authority considers regulations need to be

  • reasonable and practical,
  • readily monitored and enforced, and
  • necessary.

For animals in the wild, where there are an infinite number of uncontrollable variables, the development of appropriate regulations would be difficult. A cost/benefit assessment is unlikely to justify the investment, and resources for enforcement unlikely to be forthcoming.

The Authority does not consider that regulations for the welfare of animals in the wild are needed, practical or enforceable.

The Authority notes that there are already regulations under other legislation relevant to pest management and recreational activity where this has been considered necessary i.e. the use of toxins (specifically excluded from coverage of the Animal Welfare Act by section 181) and use of firearms.  In addition, major recreation user groups such as Fish and Game New Zealand and the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association undertake education and advocacy in relation to hunting best practice.

Kay Booth
Chairperson


Related link

Animal Welfare Matters: proposals for a New Zealand Animal Welfare Strategy and amendments to the Animal Welfare Act 1999

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New Zealand Conservation Authority
PO Box 10420
Wellington 6143
Telephone: +64 4 471 3289
Fax: +64 4 381 3057
Email: nzca@doc.govt.nz