Source: Department of Conservation
Date: 01 October 2021
The ballot is for 25 landing sites which will be open to helicopters from 23 April-15 July 2022. It’s the only time when landings are allowed in the spectacular area.
The 12-week ballot period is broken into seven-day blocks which means 300 opportunities will be up for grabs. Each site accommodates a party of two to six experienced hunters, with one member nominated as the party leader.
South Westland Operations Manager Wayne Costello says the ballot gives recreational hunters the opportunity to help reduce tahr densities to the target levels set in the Himalayan Thar Control Plan.
Hunters who win a spot in the ballot must return a hunting/kill diary provided by DOC as part of the tahr management plan, he says.
“The diaries are important sources of data. The information captured about numbers killed, seen and hunted is crucial for making a case to run the ballot in the following year.”
Diaries from hunting periods through this year’s ballot showed recreational hunters shot 889 tahr in the Wilderness Areas. Through the ballot, 490 hunters gained access to some of the most remote alpine places in South Westland.
Wayne Costello says DOC values its relationship with hunters and their contribution to conservation.
“They appreciate our wild places. Recreational tahr hunting contributes to conservation by keeping tahr numbers down which reduces damage to alpine environments. Hunters also help in other ways, such as reporting kea sightings, so we know more about what’s happening in those areas.”
DOC encourages all hunters to remove nannies and juveniles, to reduce group sizes to less than five animals. Most hunters also get the opportunity to shoot trophy bulls while in the wilderness areas
Palmerston North hunter Jacques Jacobs has entered the ballot for the past six years. He says it’s a well-managed process and one in which hunters most definitely contribute to conservation.
When he’s out hunting in the ballot areas, tahr is on the menu; “We’ll shoot a nice young kid and get a big pot going and make a curry, it’s really good eating.”
After he and those he hunts with have got their trophy bulls they will shoot three to four nannies to take home for later eating.
Jacques Jacobs is enthusiastic about the diaries DOC provides to hunters. “They’re a great system, very helpful for both hunters and DOC.”
The scenery in the ballot area is breath-taking, he says. “It’s a true wilderness, it’s a privilege to get access into there.”
Wayne Costello says a condition of the ballot is that hunters must leave their camping sites clean.
“It’s a remarkable opportunity to get into these areas. If you don’t keep your camp site clean that has an impact on the group coming after you. It’s not fair so that’s why we’ve said in future if you don’t clean up you don’t get the chance to come back.”
Fees collected from the tahr ballot are used to pay for helicopter time for post season inspections of landing sites and campsites to ensure that rubbish has been removed and check site suitability/safety.
Wayne Costello says the 2022 ballot time period has been extended to 12 weeks from 11 this year which means it’s even further into winter.
“This raises the risk for hunters due to the time of year and the weather and snow conditions. These are risks that all visitors to alpine areas need to manage themselves. Hunters must have alpine safety skills and be prepared to camp and hunt in winter conditions.”
The full tahr diary dataset for last season will be available online when the ballot goes live at 9am on 5 October.
Vegetation studies show large mobs of Himalayan tahr put pressure on native plants and ecosystems. They eat native plants and trample large areas of vegetation which damages compactable soils.
DOC is working with Ngāi Tahu and the Tahr Plan Implementation Liaison Group (TPILG), to over time reduce the size of the tahr population back within the limits of the Himalayan Thar Control Plan 1993.
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