NZDA President Craig Benbow: Conference Report

NZDA President Craig Benbow: Conference Report

29 August 2022

Our 74th Conference was held at the end of last month and all the feedback I have since heard has been an overwhelming response of thanks to Waikato Branch for running a successful and very enjoyable Conference.

I would like to extend sincere thanks from the board, all attendees, guests and partners for all the hard work and organisation that Waikato applied to the task.

Conference began on Friday night and it was a pleasure to have Lady Mayor of Hamilton Paula Southgate speak to us and welcome all to Hamilton. An enjoyable evening was had and that set the scene for a weekend of mingling and meeting new people.

Throughout Conference there was the theme of 'hunter education' being continually touched on and many matters beside but our expansion of the HUNTS program, thanks to the Jobs For Nature Funding via DOC, was most definitely a massive contribution to both discussions but also the direction of branches' thoughts into the future.

Gwyn updated everyone quite comprehensively on the state of NZDA. Maturation of the CEO's position continues to evolve the role and some of the challenges we have were conveyed also.

Katie Duggan presented a short video of a womens hunt that she organised out of Southern Lakes Branch and it provided quite a bit of valuable information for branches wishing to see more women out hunting and being involved in branch activities or governance.

Bill O'Leary updated everyone on the state of the processes with approval of clubs and certification of ranges and the need to begin the process of compliance was emphasised as well as our preparedness to assist in that space with our range assessor capability that Bill and others have been overseeing for the past year or so.

We heard from Game Animal Council through Tim Gale and the work of the GAC over the past year was highlighted and the emergence of Te Ara Ki Mua as a guiding document for game animal management explained. It was good to see Chair of the Game Animal Council Grant Dodson take out an award for his Red Stag on award night, well done Grant!

DOC were present throughout the weekend and manned a booth to inform attendees, thanks to Dion, Kim, Andy and Ben for attending. Ben Reddiex also spoke to the work that has been funded and initiated in the game animal management space and progression of some collaborative work between DOC, NZDA and others to explore some opportunities to get members and others involved in goat control work. DOC will be undertaking goat control regardless but all parties are keen to contribute towards something that could be a large competition to motivate further engagement and assist in growing involvement with NZDA.

Erin Hewitson and our HUNTS trainers gave us a run down on the state of the Jobs for Nature HUNTS program and where the effort has yielded results. I think we are all pleased to see the development of that program and keen to see what it can deliver but also looking to the future to see where it may be more enduring and train more hunters.

Saturday night was busy with the awards dinner and thanks to Waikato Branch for offering up some venison to feed the guests. Our speaker for the night was Murray Douglas and Murray was able to inform us all more about his father Norman Douglas who developed the Douglas scoring system that all our Antler Horn and Tusk entries are judged on. It was an enlightening presentation on a man who seemed to be very adept at turning his hand to anything but was passionate about hunting also. A man who appreciated symmetry in nature and shared a system of assessing that to enable comparisons across individuals. We will always be indebted to the Douglas family for ensuring his passion is available for us to utilise.

Our entries in all competitions were good and it was nice to have the photography displayed in an accessible area for everyone to view if they wished. It was an honour to present the awards on the night and I encourage you all to make every effort to get an entry in for next year in whatever class or competition you wish to engage in. I'd really love to see a huge effort in the Wilkinson Postal shoot so leave that to branches to organise and get entries in.

Cam Speedy presented very quickly to us the practicalities and challenges of managing species in place and the changing state of forests and species contained within them. We were all impressed with the Sika Foundation work and very appreciative of the time Cam was able to spend with us also. There are challenges in the hunter attitude space and disrespect for the efforts of those conducting field work is not something any of us condone or wish to see more of so while a bit confronting it is a fair reflection of some of the issues we have around hunter education and learning to do the right thing and understand the implications of what you do in these areas. End game is informed smart hunters doing the right thing and helping to manage areas for all and that is a desire in all hunting areas not just Kaimanawa's.

We were pleased to have in attendance ACT MP Nicole McKee and thank her for her attendance and inspiring words that encourage us to keep responding to the more infuriating and time consuming decisions of government and I am sure Nicole was able to take away some additional information spoken from the heart to keep her motivated to work as hard as she can to assist us in protecting your rights as lawful firearms owners and hunters or shooters.

Michael Dowling from COLFO was present for the weekend also and many a word was passed on firearms related matters as well and his assistance as a stand in scrutineer was much appreciated.

Sunday morning we were pleased to have Haydn Steele from NZ AutoTraps come in and give a short demonstration of the automated system of trapping the company has developed. Technology is moving quite quickly in this space and getting an update from the cutting edge was very informative.

Our elections resulted in Tim Taylor BOP, Paul Carmine North Auckland and Richard Wells Nelson all being elected to the board replacing Carolyn, Morgan and Wayne who have retired. Callum Sheridan has replaced Alec McIver as National Vice President. Our profound thanks to those vacating seats and a warm welcome to those coming onto the board is extended. 

Our National Treasurer position has not been filled and we have no candidates coming forward. The board will need to make decisions in cooperation with the CEO to ensure the oversight of our financial position is maintained and that we are able to continue to function efficiently and effectively financially into the new year. We are yet to decide what measures we might take but are open to alternative arrangements or a nomination at any time. We are well aware of the commitment becoming onerous but are willing to investigate what we could put in place to cover off this crucial role.



NZDA President Craig Benbow