Doc's going to kill someone soon in Central Otago.... What?

DOC is currently under attack in Central Otago, for trying to maintain our rights as members of the public to access public land.

DOC doesn’t have it easy and all too often cops a lot of flak, it’s unfortunately hard to please everyone.

PointsSouth is an online hunting community and is very much “pro” taking a level headed and safe approach to hunting access.  Mt Pisa station near Cromwell has enlisted the help of PR, creative writing and advocacy company called  “The Message”.  The Message is very obviously trying hard to grow their following and his headed up by Michael Laws…. Yes that Michael Laws (ex Wanganui) who has recently moved to Cromwell.

And how very creative his writing is, it’s worth having a look at his last few Facebook posts on this topic.  Have you even been up behind Mt Pisa Station Mr Laws? Do you have a solid understanding of hunting practices? Do you recreate in conservation estates?

The Message paints an un-researched and unbalanced picture of Mt Pisa stations issues with what can and can’t happen on the neighbouring Pisa Conservation Estate. They are also extremely critical of DOC, with headlines such as the one above that we have taken the liberty of re-using and accusations of DOC of altering documents and withholding information.  Meanwhile Mt Pisa station has been locking public access to public land.

The Macmillan family has farmed this land for some 92 years and is now reneging on their agreed easements.  Truth be told Mt Pisa Station has for whatever reason always been anti-hunting on the Pisa range.

After a bunch of back and forth with DOC the Macmillan family last month officially notified DOC that they wee seeking mediation regarding hunting on the Pisa Range. The Message instantly went on the attack, slamming DOC for not entering into mediation immediately.  DOC’s position on this is that both parties have agreed that the terms of the easement are not in dispute, so hence DOC hasn’t needed to enter into mediation.

Unfortunately for hunters we have the usual case here of people using the media to sensationalise their issue.  In this case Mt Pisa Station has highlighted to the media that the background to their concern is the danger posed to their staff and other recreationalists.  Sensationalised with phrases such as “accident waiting to happen” and quoting a past incident in another area to further hype up the PR spin.

Here’s just one of the headline grabbers

This makes for a great story for the majority of people who have little understanding of how hunting works or how hunters already co-exist with other users. The general public will very readily just hold the view that anything to do with hunting and firearms is inherently dangerous for everyone.

Mt Pisa Station has stated that DOC needs to at the very least put signage up alerting people to the fact that they may be sharing the area with unruly hunters. Fair call in a way.  They also add that any hunting up there should be confined to areas of “clear sight lines”.   Sounds fair right?  Not so, because if you know the area well which I do, you will realise that the whole area is open country with very clear “sightlines”.  The area along Mr Macmillan's boundary (where a most of the hunting is) see’s far less traffic from other users than that of the top of the range where interestingly the Macmillans claim the sightlines are better.  Yes, the the top of the range is big rolling open country, but a hunter is more likely to find a good shooting background and less traffic in the country just above Mt Pisa station. Big contradiction here from Mt Pisa Station.

Pretty tough to find a "clear line of sight" in this country.... Yeah Right

It is the responsibility of every hunter to only shoot when he has a clear line of sight,  be aware of other recreationalists and positively identify targets to name but a few of the fundamentals clearly communicated through firearms licenses and hunting permit applications.

Hunters and other recreationalists already do co-exist very well and in areas with user traffic far exceeding the levels on the Pisa range.  Think of the huge number of DOC huts and tracks shared by trampers and hunters.  Copland track, Haast-Paringa cattle track, Smoothwater/Stafford Bay, Nevis,  I could go on forever listing them and every one of them has more traffic than the area behind Mt Pisa station.

If Mr Macmillans concerns are safety related then why has he blocked all access through the easement,  and not just hunters?

DOC understands only too well the need for all recreationalists to co-exist, example here is the Copland which closes to hunting during the extremely high traffic summer.  Measures like this are good for everyone as who wants to hunt in such a high traffic time of year anyway

Bruce Mason (Reclaim Access and Parks NZ) is a strong advocate for New Zealanders not to be held back from accessing their public land.  In a very recent letter to the ODT  Bruce states that “the Macmillians have probably made millions from sub dividing his freehold pastoral lease as part of the tenure review deal, when he also agreed to a conservation area and public access as the quid pro quo.  So it is a bit rich to now say he didn’t know hunters would visit public lands”

Michael Laws states that DOC have “breached the terms of the contract by changing its policy with regards to hunting in the conservation estate, whilst under pressure from the hunting lobby”.  What the message fails to explain is that this is most likely referring to the creation of three Roar ballot blocks on the Pisa range.  The sole purpose of having those Roar blocks is safety, it means that only one party of hunters can be in a particular block at any one time.  Far better safety-wise than the “free for all” of open permit.  This is not a change of policy, this is simply fulfilling duty to manage the conservation estate.

Mt Pisa station is stating that the Tenure review documents never mentioned hunters using the area and that is correct.  What Mt Pisa perhaps doesn’t realise is that by the tenure review documents saying nothing about “excluding hunters” that members of the public actually have every right to walk up through his property carrying firearms.

DOC,s website and signs on the ground have said hunters cannot access the conservation area through the McMillan property. PointsSouth believes this to be incorrect. The matter has been raised with DOC who are not happy with this situation and would much prefer it just went away instead of fuelling the fire and making the situation more difficult.  Fortunately DOC are public servants and have a duty to protect our rights of public access as members of the public.  The legalities of hunting access through this easement are currently being reviewed and DOC are endeavoring to justify their position.  They have stated that by the document being silent on hunting it in fact means no hunting access, if this position is correct it is of major concern to all hunters and PointsSouth is looking to clarify this situation and will be posting a further article/s shortly

Very simply Mt Pisa Station has no business trying to dictate what happens on public land, their safety concerns are contradictory and unfounded.  And DOC should continue to take a hard-line on people deliberately restricting public access to public land.

The Mt Pisa easement must be looked at on its own and interpreted from what it says not what DOC or Mt Pisa Station would perhaps like it to say.

What the document says is that you can use the access to get to the conservation area. It is restricted only by the way in which you can travel. You can only go by foot, horse or non motorised transport (bike) It simply does not say only trampers, horse riders and bikers can use it....

Anyone may use it to get to the conservation area and they can take anything they can carry. If this is not the case then why would other Tenure Review documents very explicitly exclude hunters in their wording.

At the end of the day an easement is about the right to cross someone’s land, it has nothing to do with permitted activities or whether you are carrying a rifle or a pack.

Watch this space.