The Minister of Conservation, Eugenie Sage, has ordered the cull of a significant number of Tahr in the coming months. She did this based on an agreement with the hunting community in the 1990s that Tahr populations should be kept at 10,000 animals. They are now well in excess of this number, and spreading rapidly through the South Island high country.
The exact numbers are not entirely certain, with estimates ranging from as low as 17,000 to as high as 52,000, and DoC saying that the population is increasing by 5,000 per year.
The Wild is run by political consultants, so rather than dwell on the numbers, the rights or the wrongs of Tahr culling or the rights of hunters, we will deal strictly with the political issues.
Can the Minister Make this Decision without going through Cabinet?
Yes. It is a decision that can be made by the Minister and her department without consultation. Note that the Greens do not have Cabinet positions so there is no normal mechanism to bring this decision before Cabinet.
Does this Decision Get Voted On in Parliament?
No. It is an operational issue that is legal under current legislation so does not require a law change. This means there is no vote on the Tahr cull.
Can the Tahr Cull be Stopped?
– It cannot be stopped politically through a vote in parliament.
– It would not normally be stopped by a Cabinet decision.
– A Judicial Review of the decision could be taken, but as long as the correct processes have been followed the cull will go ahead. In the event they haven’t been followed it would be postponed until the proper process has been undertaken.
– Political Pressure on the Minister will probably not be effective because the Minister believes she is doing the Lords Work, and that the cull should go ahead. It is not unreasonable to assume that the Greens believe all introduced species, including Deer, Goats, Pigs, Trout and Salmon should be eradicated.
What can be Done?
The only thing that can be done to delay the decision is to take legal action. Political pressure will not have much impact while the Greens hold the Conservation portfolio. This does not mean it is a waste of time to pressure politicians, it just means it will likely not change the current decision.
Politicians are not immune to pressure, so pressuring the Minister is likely to be successful in the short term. In the medium term political activity by hunters will have some impact, although the results may not be effective.
In the longer term the only way to ensure this kind of cull does not happen is to elect a government that appoints a Conservation Minister who is not a green and believes in big game hunting.