Preserving Our Social Licence Critical for All Hunters

  • 17/04/2024

Preserving Our Social Licence Critical for All Hunters

Written By Tim Gale – General Manager, Game Animal Council

A key aspect of my role at the Game Animal Council is working with decision-makers to get the best possible results for hunting in New Zealand. To achieve that I must be able to tell a really positive story about our sector, its role in our communities and its contribution to good conservation outcomes. This is what is known as our ‘social licence’, and while a lot of progress has been made over the last few years to enhance it, it remains something that hunters must keep working hard to maintain.

Sadly, as our society has become more urbanised and our population concentrated into the bigger cities, the public appreciation for hunting, fishing and the resource value of wild food has reduced. This presents us a significant challenge when it comes to preserving our social licence, and it is this social licence that is critical to our place in the conservation/management ecosystem.

It is in this context that I want to congratulate Fish & Game on their recently launched ‘Rewild’ campaign. Illustrating to New Zealanders the personal and wellbeing benefits of hunting and fishing is another important element of our social licence. It helps the public understand why we spend our weekends in the hills and the positive role our recreational activities play in our lives and to our families. Through that they begin to understand the value of hunting and the animals we hunt. 

The fact is that hunters, whether they chase big game (deer, tahr, chamois and wild pigs) or game birds, have a connection to the land and possess the on-the-ground knowledge and experience that is necessary to create positive outcomes in game animal management and conservation. Hunters rely on an understanding of the animals they hunt, their behaviour, and how they are impacting their environment. They know what impacts predators are having on native species and are often the first to spot the degradation of important habitats, such as to our wetlands or podocarp forests.

With our sector now working far more collaboratively with the Department of Conservation and others, it is only natural to see more strident opposition to our role and the place of valued introduced species in New Zealand. Unfortunately, there are those who still consider our interests to be opposed to the conservation of native species and the responsible management of valued introduced species. This is likely to translate into even more forceful opposition to an enhanced role for hunters in the conservation sphere.

So, how do we convince New Zealanders who have little-to-no understanding of the recreational benefits, conservation and management advantages, and food gathering importance of hunting, that it is an activity to not only be preserved, but encouraged?

Firstly, I believe, we must continue to focus on what we do best – looking after the whenua (land), being responsible contributors to the wider outdoors sector and the providers of food for our communities.

Secondly, we must be prepared to tell our stories. The days of just quietly doing our thing away from the public gaze are over. We must prove to New Zealanders why what we do is valuable to New Zealand and why the species we enjoy hunting are a valuable resource to be managed, not just for their impacts, but also for their social, recreational and community benefits.

I have full confidence that favourable and lasting results for both hunting and valued introduced species can coexist with positive outcomes for conservation and the environment. I firmly believe that increasing hunter participation in species management and conservation, rather than decreasing it, is crucial in achieving this balance. Emphasising the positive contributions of hunters and hunting organisations to our communities, and continually improving New Zealanders perception of what we do, is essential for realising this objective.

To find out more about what the Game Animal Council does you can visit as well as the GAC’s Facebook or Instagram.

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