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Hunting and shooting in NSW National Parks

The Game and Feral Animal Control Amendment Bill 2012 was voted into legislation on 20th June 2012 and will:

  • Allow the minister to make national parks available "for the hunting of game animals by persons who hold a game hunting licence".
  • Specifically exclude only 48 of our metropolitan national parks and other types of reserves, along with wilderness and world heritage areas. This leaves most of our 779 reserves at risk of being opened to amateur hunting.
  • Expand the list of "game animals" that can be hunted on public land (like national parks) to include several non-native bird species.
  • Prevent anti-hunting protests by making it an offence "to interfere with a person who is lawfully hunting game animals on public hunting land" (including national parks).

Premier O’Farrell said before and repeatedly after the 2011 election that he would not allow hunting in national parks or indeed make deals with minor parties.

Premier O'Farrell then famously back flipped on his commitment, claiming that allowing recreational hunters into our national parks was a logical extension of an existing policy of having professional hunters and NPWS staff eradicating feral animals. This is incorrect and clearly spin. The Game Council is replacing pest control with amateur game management. The motivation of the amateur shooters as enshrined by this recent legislation is to hunt game not eradicate feral pests.

Shooters and Fishers MLC, Robert Borsak, said ''Our understanding is that if it all goes well, then we would be able to access more parks.'' In response, the Environment Minister, Robyn Parker, would not rule out opening more parks to amateur hunters.

Premier O’Farrell at first said amateur hunting would be restricted to 79 national parks. When the Bill was tabled in Parliament, 79 had become 779.

The above summary of the Act is from an NPA email. You can go to their website to find out how to help get this Act revoked.

Read the complete Game & Feral Animal Control Amendment Bill 2012 - http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/nswbills.nsf/1d4800a7a88cc2abca256e9800121f01/c8afc0c4709e478bca25788e0005e862/$FILE/b2011-163-d18-House.pdf

Some background reading

1. An NPWS interpretation

This message has been distributed by and to staff in the NPWS on Thursday 21st June 2012.

The Game and Feral Animal Control Amendment Bill 2012 passed both Houses and came in to being yesterday. The new Act will come in to being 6 months from this date.

Our heads of department are trying to make the best of a poor situation, as is to be expected. We are of course the public service and our job is to do what the government dictates. But don’t be fooled.

The talk was that just 79 parks were identified as up for consideration at this stage. The Bill that was passed instead specifies just 48 reserves that CANNOT be declared for hunting. ANY of our other 751 reserves may be opened up for hunting, at the whim of the Minister. Also to note is that while MNER reserves are currently in the exclusion list, the Bill also allows the Minister to remove parks from this list at any time.

Some other elements which are apparent straight away:

  • It can not be assumed that NPWS officers have any authority as inspectors under the Act.
  • The Act prohibits anyone from interfering with a licensed hunter or their activities . . . this may include an NPWS officer approaching a person in the park to ascertain whether they have the appropriate permissions to be there.
  • Persons hunting under licence will be exempt from any offence under the NPW Act and Regs for activities associated with hunting and necessary for the purposes of hunting . . . carrying firearms or other hunting devices, using motor vehicles for access . . .
  • The Act specifically excludes licensed hunters from abiding by NPW Act stop work orders or interim protection orders . . . which are issued when an action or activity may significantly affect protected plants/animals/their environment, aboriginal objects/places, or other items of cultural heritage.
  • The current program in State Forests (and in other public and private lands) is administered by the NSW Game Council. There is nothing legislatively to say it won’t be the same for us.
    (If you’re keen to do your own homework, links to the original 2002 Bill and the 2012 Amendments can be found below).

Our unions and professional associations are fighting this. All the peak conservation organisations are fighting this. Now is not a time to be complacent. After considering the Shooters & Fishers Party’s position statements, and the power the Party has over our Premier Barry O’Farrell, it is clear the hunting issue is very much just the tip of the iceberg!

2. SMH interviews

An article in the Sydney Morning Herald Tuesday June 26 sets out some of the thoughts of the Hunters and Fishers Party. It notes that 'All but 48 of the state's almost 800 national parks could eventually be opened up to recreational hunters, according to Shooters and Fishers MP Robert Borsak, who said in an online video "Our understanding ...is that if it all goes well, then we would be able to ask to get access to more parks".

Comment: Do these sound like the words of someone interested only in taking part "in an extension of the current safe program of feral animal eradication" (a quote from a spokesman for the Environment Minister, Robyn Parker)?

Click here to read the full SMH article

Click on any of the green links below to open the page:

3. NPA's webpage - list of parks included and excluded plus links and discussions and ways to protest
http://www.npansw.org.au/index.php/news-parentmenu-419/182-2012/752-premier-allows-shooting-in-nsw-national-parks.html#Listofparks

4. The website of the Invasive Species Council has more information about why so called 'conservation hunting' by amateur hunters is not an effective means of controlling feral animals.
http://www.invasives.org.au/page.php?nameIdentifier=ishuntingconservation

5. http://nohunting.wildwalks.com/node/58 - includes a map of inclusions and exclusions, but read the fine print

A Dangerous and Damaging Deal: Let there be no doubt. The plan to allow 15,000 amateur hunters into NSW national parks is not motivated by good environmental policy.

At a superficial level, an offer to allow access to our national parks for volunteer hunters keen to shoot deer, goats, pigs and other feral animals sounds irresistible.

Yet the evidence shows that a program of hunters controlled by the Game Council will provide no environmental benefit, likely lead to environmental harm and place at serious risk the public’s enjoyment and safety.

6. Shooters & Fishers Party’s Position Statements and Action Plans on:

7. http://www.pawansw.org/newsnevents.html - position statement, media releases, links to petitions and additional information eg Invasive Species Council

8. Game & Feral Animal Control Bill 2002 (including earlier amendments) – http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/download.cgi/cgi-bin/download.cgi/download/au/legis/nsw/consol_act/gafaca2002230.rtf

 

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