Ōpōtiki District Council's Planning and Regulatory Group Manager, Gerard McCormack said that the feedback had come back from the hunting community following a series of workshops in Te Kaha over the summer period.
"There are a few barriers to hunters wanting to register their dogs and cost is a significant one of these. But it is a legal obligation everywhere in the country to ensure your dogs are registered each year – hunting dogs are no exception.
"But most hunters want to keep their dogs whole, that is not neuter them, because there are some pretty long-held beliefs in the hunting community that they just aren't as good once they have been spayed or neutered. And the cost to register a whole dog is much higher. In Ōpōtiki, it is the difference between $110 and $55," Mr McCormack said.
But following these workshops, Council settled on a better way to approach the issue and passed a resolution to allow hunting dogs to be registered as working dogs under the Dog Control Act 1996. This reduced the registration fee to just $40 and allowed the dogs to remain whole. But there is a catch. The dogs must be kept solely or principally for the purposes of hunting game by a person undertaking legal hunting activities and they must have completed avian awareness and aversion training.
"At the end of the day, hunters spend more time in the New Zealand bush than the average person and they don't want to see birds getting harmed on their watch either.
"We expect that this change will lead to more dogs being registered and more protection for wildlife in large areas of Opotiki's bush. We have some of the best areas in the country to hunt deer or pigs, so this is great news for our hunting community," Mr McCormack said.
Pete Livingstone, Department of Conservation's Biodiversity Supervisor, said it was a positive proactive initiative and hoped other District or Unitary Councils would follow suit.
"This is a great step to help protect our precious kiwi, weka, whio and other ground nesting or breeding species. DOC requires avian aversion training for hunting dogs in Public Conservation Land This initiative is also increasingly being required by other landowners such as some larger forestry companies and Iwi-owned forests with local hunting clubs as well.
"This change should see more dogs registered and avian aversion trained and that will be a big win for the ground nesting and other flightless endemic birds in New Zealand," Mr Livingstone said.