To Regulate or Not Regulate? That is the Question.
As many of you will know, guided hunting in New Zealand is an unregulated industry. For many, this is just the way they like it – if you leave me alone and let me get on with my job, we’ll be just fine.
I can respect this. No-one likes being told what to do, least of all a fiercely-independent New Zealand rural type, epitomised by our hunters and runholders, the mainstay members that make up New Zealand’s guided hunting scene. The ability to cut one’s own path free of constraint is a good thing, but it does open us up to some significant risk.
We live in an age where everyone has an opinion on everything. Hunting, funnily enough, is a pretty polarising topic – some love it, some are ambivalent, some would love to see all hunting banned forever. Either way, it’s never too far from the court of public opinion. In New Zealand, we currently have a relatively sympathetic environment to foster growth of tourism industries that leverage our natural resources – which includes hunting. What if we had an event that changed some of the more neutral attitudes out there, or even change of government, to one that was less sympathetic to the idea of hunting on any level? We all know how quickly the tables can turn, friend can become foe and the populist position can be against you. . The idea of being shut down or regulated out of business by such a paradigm shift makes me shudder.
A wise head once told me “whatever you do for a job, one day, you will be regulated in how you do it. The question you need to ask is ‘will it be you who makes the regulations, or someone else?'” This is the whole notion of self-regulation – the proactive improvement of industry practice that protects the participants from being dictated to by someone who may or may not appreciate your point of view.
At the moment, the two main voluntary industry bodies in New Zealand hunting are the New Zealand Professional Hunting Guides Association (NZPHGA), who set standards around guiding practice, and the New Zealand Association of Game Estates (NZAGE) who set standards around hunting properties. Both organisations understand the need for sound, defensible practice to ensure their respective members’ industry survives.
As we head into an election time, I urge all members of the hunting industry, and that includes all past, present and prospective clients, to support the voluntary bodies that represent our livelihoods and recreation. I want to be delivering great hunting trips on High Peak for the next 25 years and for one, am not willing to let my future be compromised by someone intent on undermining what I do, whether from poor practice within the industry or ill intent from outside the scope of hunting.
Of course, the other side of the regulation coin is that barriers to entry are raised. This generally means higher standards, better experiences for clients, better resource management and the opportunity to continue to do what you love so that future generations may enjoy it also. If an industry is judged by it’s lowest common factor, then we had better ensure that that factor is high enough to be acceptable.
It’s time we made a concerted effort to join forces, get some recognised standards in place and secure both our industry’s viability and our clients’ recreation for the future.