Non Toxic Shot Regulations

Rules For Non-Toxic Game Bird Hunting: In New Zealand it's compulsory to use non-toxic shot when hunting waterfowl with any gun using a 10 or 12 gauge cartridge for all areas, including private land, within 200m of a water body and wetlands.

For most hunters this means using steel shot, although others such as bismuth and tungsten alloys are available.

non toxic shot regulations 0Why ban lead shot?

Lead shot has been banned or restricted in many parts of the world for many years because it's been shown to poison ducks that accidentally eat it as grit. Studies showed that New Zealand was no different to other countries that had already switched to non­-toxic shot. The Government made the decision to go non-toxic, and requested Fish & Game to implement a staged and progressive introduction of non­-toxic shot provisions several years ago.

Who's affected?

  1. ALL waterfowl hunters including private landowners hunting on their own property
  2. ALL waterfowl hunters hunting or killing waterfowl within 200m of water
  3. ALL hunters of waterfowl, (swans, ducks and pukeko)

Who's exempt?

  1. ALL hunters of upland game (all quail and pheasants) are exempted. That's because research has shown these birds are not affected because the shot "in the uplands" is so widely dispersed
  2. Black-powder muzzle loaded shotgun users
  3. Users of a calibre less than 12 gauge
  4. All hunters who pass the "200m rule test" (see below)

200-metre rule test:

  • If you're hunting waterfowl (swans,geese, ducks and pukeko), MORE THAN 200m from "a waterbodv", which is taken as any stream, river, lake or tidal area, "more than 3m wide", you can continue to use lead shot, if you wish. Lead shot that falls on land away from water is not a significant risk to waterfowl
  • If you are within 200m of a waterway, over 3 metres in width, and while upland gamebird hunting with lead and encounter a duck, then either don't shoot at it with lead or cover your risk by using only non-toxic shot
  • If you are hunting BOTH upland AND waterfowl within 200m of a waterway, more than 3m in width, then you must use ONLY non-toxic shot
  • If you are hunting waterfowl within 200m of a waterway, more than 3 metres wide and you are in possession of BOTH lead and non-toxic ammunition you will be prosecuted. If your intention was to hunt upland game later with lead shot, or to hunt waterfowl with lead later beyond the 200m rule, you need to be completely unambiguous about this. For instance, by keeping the lead ammunition back in the vehicle when you are hunting waterfowl within the 200m zone
  • Because of the current wording of the law you could currently use gauge inserts to convert a 12 gauge into a 20 gauge or the like to avoid the non-toxic restrictions. If you choose this approach and a ranger catches you with a single 12 gauge lead cartridge it will be assumed that you are defying the law and a prosecution will be likely
  • If you hunt in a tidal area then the 200m rule applies from the Mean High Water Mark. So you may be 500 metres away from the water's edge at low tide, but this is not a defense. Similarly, if you're hunting next to floodwaters it is the edge of the floodwater at that time that you measure the 200m from.

Why is it so complicated?

The 200m rule may sound like an odd exemption, but it does allow, for instance, hunting waterfowl over paddocks with lead. The Government originally proposed that ALL lead shot be banned for all activities, including ALL upland gamebird hunting, ALL clay target shooting and ALL farm pest control. Fish & Game was successful in having this extreme requirement softened.

The 200m rule recognises that lead is not a problem away from waterways. Equally, the smaller number of shotguns of gauges "less than 12" are not a statistically important factor in waterfowl poisoning by lead shot. Black powder exemptions are even fewer in number. Black powder burns through shotgun wads so it's not really practical to force non­ toxic shot upon these shooters when plastic wads are essential to protect bores from most types of non-toxic shot.

While the 200m rule could be criticised, no one has yet thought up a better rule to fit the circumstances. A complete ban on ALL lead shot is very easy to understand. This is the alternative that was proposed. The concessions have been hard fought for to allow for paddock shooting of ducks and parries especially. Please respect them or we may all find that the original proposal to ban all lead shot may be introduced.

For more information, please read our Toxic Shot Regulations FAQ.

Max. Shot Sizes & Non-Toxic Energy Equivalents

Read this extensive article by  John Dyer, Senior Wildlife Manager, Auckland/Waikato Fish & Game Council (and Shotgun Editor, NZ Guns & Hunting magazine). July 2011.

View our Non Toxic Shot Regulations FAQs on our general FAQs section here.