Todd McClay - The new minister for hunting and fishing

  • 17/04/2024

Todd McClay - The new minister for hunting and fishing

Written by - Maggie Tait

New Hunting and Fishing Minister Todd McClay lives his life in a suit and tie, jetting around the world negotiating trade deals when not up to his eyeballs in paperwork. Given more time, he’d rather be wading a river spotting fish or crouched in the maimai calling in ducks.

The 55-year-old, who lives in Rotorua, has always hunted and fished, and it's a love he’s shared raising his four kids, Joshua, Sam, Caelen, and Ana-Kiera, now adults.

He recalls his dad, former National MP Roger McClay, coming home from hunting carrying more than a pig.

“I remember my father coming home one day and my mother complaining that all his clothes and hair were covered in lice. He had been out hunting, killed a pig and carried it out of the bush. I remember thinking, ‘Why did I have to sit at home while Dad went out and did these awesome things!’”

So, he got out amongst it too.

“I grew up hunting and fishing around Taupo. Nymph fishing the Waitahanui and Tongariro rivers and learning to hunt with schoolmates around some of the Fletcher’s forests and Clements Mill Road.

“My first firearm was an old Lee Enfield .303 that I bought on layby from a small shop in Wellington when I was a student. I used to head into the Tararua and Aorangi ranges during those student days in my old banged-up Suzuki hunting truck.”

His children embraced the tradition and continue to hunt.

“It’s something that I like to do with my now adult children. My middle son, Sam, got to shoot his first deer when he was 13 or 14 years old on Hunting Aotearoa (the show broadcast on TVNZ).

“For my kids, it’s often less about shooting the animals – although they’re very proud when they bring one back. It’s as much about being out away from everything – the mobile phone doesn’t work, and it’s really good quality time that far too few New Zealanders are able to enjoy with their family nowadays.”

McClay, who attended Tauhara College in Taupo and Wesley College in Auckland, has a career that’s seen him work in the European Parliament under Lord Henry Plumb, a previous president of the National Farmers Union. He has been the MP for Rotorua for 15 years, now entering his sixth term. Under the Key Government, he was a minister for five years, holding ministerial positions for Revenue, State Owned Enterprises, and Trade, where he led the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. In the current Government, he has ministerial roles for Trade, Agriculture and Forestry, as well as the new Hunting and Fishing portfolio.

“I have been thinking about the possibility of a hunting and fishing ministerial role for many years. Tens of thousands of New Zealanders have grown up hunting and fishing. It is a valued recreational pastime, and it connects people to nature and the outdoors.

“Hunters contribute to the protection of our biodiversity by eradicating pests, helping to control animal numbers, and providing food for their families and their wider community. More work needs to be done to communicate the mutual benefits for conservation, recreation, and community when they are all working together in harmony.”

Despite a suite of very high-profile and high-pressure responsibilities, McClay is confident he can be a strong advocate for fishing and hunting.

“I am the Minister of Trade, Agriculture, Forestry and Hunting and Fishing – all of these portfolios cross over, and the government sees benefit in there being a minister across all of the detail who is able to make decisions quickly.

“Hunting and fishing is a part of Kiwis’ DNA. Many people learn to hunt or fish with their friends and family, so it makes a significant contribution to our communities, particularly those in the rural parts of New Zealand. Hunting and fishing is also a very important industry that supports our economy. It is a huge honour to be the first Minister for Hunting and Fishing.”

McClay will own many functions relating to hunting and fishing that previous conservation ministers would have been responsible for. These include the hunting of game animals and birds, the fishing of freshwater fish, decisions on access that impact hunters, firearms safety on public conservation land, and all functions relating to the Game Animal Council and the Fish & Game Councils. He intends to work closely with the Minister of Conservation, Tama Potaka, to ensure they support each other’s priorities for the management of public conservation lands and waters.  

“My plan is to support the rights of New Zealanders to continue to hunt and fish while protecting and enhancing our natural environment. I am looking forward to working together to ensure consistent access is maintained, that we place the right value on introduced species, and that the rights of hunters and anglers are protected and upheld.

“During this term of government, I will progress Herds of Special Interest (HOSIs) that will recognise the recreational value of designated species and manage the impacts on conservation. I will also provide greater representation for hunting and fishing views in conservation decision-making and support some of the sector’s key bodies, including the Game Animal Council and Fish & Game.”

With a full programme and significant overseas travel on the agenda, the Minister will have his work cut out for him.

“Overseas travel is an important part of the Government’s work to advance New Zealand’s trade and economic interests. We will also focus on reducing the regulatory burdens experienced by the farming and forestry sector, improving sector confidence and investment certainty, which will grow our rural economies.”

So, it’s a suit and tie rather than waders for McClay.

“I don’t get the opportunity to go fishing and hunting as much I’d like to at the moment – but while I might be stuck in the office, you can rest assured I am thinking about those that are getting out there.”

More Posts