Nelson City Council has bowed to public pressure to let the public have access to reserves during the school holidays.
A pest-culling operation which had planned to close a large part of Nelson’s public reserves over the school holidays will now exclude some mountain bike trails to allow for use during the holiday period after feedback from the public.
The annual pest control is now in its third and final year of a contract between Nelson City Council and an out-of-town professional hunting company.
The operation has been conducted in the Maitai and Roding River catchments, with the aim to restore forest health in an area that is home to one of Nelson’s largest intact forest ecosystems.
In 2018, the hunters culled 177 goats and deer from around 4700ha of public land at a cost of $26,066. In 2019, another 160 ungulates were removed costing another $22,871.
This year council has been warned to prepare for increased helicopter time which is likely to mean a higher cost.
Nelson City Council group manager environmental management, Clare Barton, says the professional hunters are “time and cost-effective, and very efficient”.
The 2019, post-operation report from the contractor, Trap and Trigger, says they had hoped reserve access for recreational hunters might improve and they would observe fewer animals in areas that can be easily accessed by hunters.
“However, what was observed this year turned out to be the opposite. There were more deer and pigs in these areas, almost as if recreational hunting was non-existent.
“We would encourage any means for generating more recreational hunting within the operational area in the hope that it will help with control efforts while seeing the wild game resources utilised.”
Council group manager community services Roger Ball says recreational hunting in the Maitai and Roding reserves is allowed by a permit system.
“There are trade-offs between the cost of the oversight of recreational hunting to keep risks down, and the number of hunters which gives more chance of removing animals,” he says.
But members of New Zealand Deerstalkers Association’s Nelson branch says they have made multiple attempts to gain access for their members to no avail.
“We were told to contact the caretakers and we did that; one never returned our messages, the other basically told us ‘no thanks, we have enough’,” says a member who asked not to be named.
Clare Barton says, while recreational hunters do assist with controlling the pest animal populations, a more systematic annual control is still needed to achieve a significant reduction in pest numbers and support the long-term survival of our forests.
Access to the area was originally planned to be closed for everyone, including recreational hunters, between 28 September and 9 October because of health and safety requirements while the professional hunters work.
However, council is now working on a staged approach to the hunting programme to minimise impacts on recreational activities in the area, especially during the school holidays.
“We appreciate there could be added demand for access during the holidays in light of Covid-19 restrictions,” says Roger.
The following mountain biking tracks in the Maitai water reserve will no longer be part of the pest control area, so will remain open throughout the school holidays.
- Fire break
- Smiths Ford
- Bob Taylor Road
- Black Diamond
- Sunrise Ridge
The Coppermine Trail closure will be limited to five days, split across two weeks to allow access in the middle weekend of the school holidays. The track will be closed to the public on 1-2 October, reopened on the weekend, and closed again from 5 – 7 October.
All other tracks in the Maitai water reserve will be closed from 1–9 October. This area includes the Maitai Caves track and the Peaking Ridge MTB track.
Warning signage will be in place at trail entrances to give advance notice of the closures.