Deerstalkers are being kept out of the Ureweras during the spring hunt while the park’s new administration sorts out a permitting system.
Deer stalkers used to obtain Department of Conservation permits, which have become invalid since Te Urewera Act became law.
Hunting in Te Urewera is suspended in the meantime and DOC permits to hunt or run pig dogs in the area are now void.
New Zealand Deerstalkers Association president Bill O’Leary says the closure is temporary and there has been an over-reaction to the news as Tuhoe aren’t setting out to close the place down to recreational hunting.
Bill says: “Tuhoe have made it quite clear the closure is temporary while they get their systems in place and there is no intention to exclude us. Reports in some news media have not made this clear."
Organising a new permit system is just one of a huge range of administrative tasks facing Tuhoe as the new landowners.
“Or rather, the owners of what has just been rightly returned to them,” says Bill.
“With the change of ownership, inevitably permits issued by the Department of Conservation are no longer valid, and they have to get a system in place to provide for this management responsibility that has now devolved to them.
“Far from closing the area to hunting as implied by some reports, Tuhoe have shown every indication they intend to embark upon well-organised game management in their homelands. In the long term the result will be a win-win for hunting, conservation and for Maori alike.”
His comments are echoed by NZDA iwi spokesman Alec McIver, who expects it will take a couple of months to sort out the game management system.
“It’s a change-over process,” says Alec. “Te Urewera National Park is now under its own Act of Parliament, so it’s just an administration process.
“Under its new Act you have to have a permit to carry a firearm on the land. It doesn’t matter who you are, you can’t carry firearms in Te Urewera until they get this permitting sorted out.
“It’s going to take longer than anyone wants - Tuhoe included. They would like to speed it up too but it’s got to be done right.
“We are just telling hunters they need to be patient and they are not getting kicked out. It’s been a huge process for Tuhoe, and they are only recently named the actual trust board.”
The decision is also going to affect helicopter concession holders, who can still drop off fishing parties, but cannot take firearms into Te Urewera. Bow hunters are probably unaffected, says Alec.
The news will affect spring hunting for many deerstalkers says Tauranga hunter Dean Maisey.
“This has come like a bolt out of the blue,” he says.
“It’s a little bit annoying to say the least because we were led to believe through our NZDA liaison representatives that were involved with the Tuhoe group that public access wouldn’t be restricted and there would essentially be no change.
“It is annoying because we’re coming into spring time and a lot of guys will be wanting to go out hunting. Spring’s a great time for hunting on the grass edges, the flats and things like that.”