Tahr sculpture marks new bill

Sculpture to be unveiled in the weekend

DANIEL BIRCHFIELD
Last updated 05:00 12/03/2014
tahr
MARK HAMILTON/ Supplied

BRONZED: A tahr sculpture overlooking Lake Pukaki is to be unveiled on Saturday to mark the recent passing of the Game Animal Council Bill.

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A bronze tahr sculpture is being unveiled at Lake Pukaki on Saturday, 110 years after the animal was released in the Aoraki/Mt Cook area.

The sculpture, created by Murray Matuschka, is being dedicated by Henrietta, Dowager Duchess of Bedford.

She is a direct descendant of the then Duke of Bedford who gifted five tahr to the New Zealand Government in 1904.

Game and Forest Foundation (GFF) secretary Terry Pierson said donations towards the $40,000-plus sculpture came from several parties, including Safari Club International New Zealand, which established the GFF.

"Donations have come from a bit of everything. There have been private donations involved and Game and Forest run an annual tahr show in Christchurch for all of the South Island hunters ... it's definitely funded by the hunters of New Zealand."

The sculpture is being unveiled beside the Lake Pukaki Visitor Centre to celebrate the recent passing of the Game Animal Council Bill.

The bill, passed in November, will give hunters a statutory voice in the management of their recreation on public conservation land.

An independent body, the Game Animal Council, is charged with managing the tahr in the Mt Cook area.

GFF executive director Garry Ottmann said the sculpture's unveiling has been a long time coming.

"All of the things that have been done to get the statue up took a bit of time. This one has probably taken longer than it should have."

He said tahr numbers were strong, with plenty of mature males for recreational hunting. There was also the opportunity to market "underrated" tahr meat.

After the first five tahr were released, a further eight were introduced in 1909 to boost numbers. It was estimated there were 40,000 tahr in 1970, but the population fell to between 1000 and 2000 by 1984, because of demand for tahr meat. A moratorium on commercial harvest was imposed and numbers steadily rose.

A 1993 statutory plan agreed to by the GFF, the Department of Conservation and those with an interest in tahr, capped numbers at 10,000 to preserve alpine vegetation.

The sculpture will be unveiled at 3pm.

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- The Timaru Herald

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