Narooma HuntFest deplored by residents
by Susan Cruttenden
In 2013 a licence was granted by the Eurobodalla Shire Council to the South Coast Hunters Club to hold a festival of hunting ( HuntFest) on crown land in Narooma on the June long weekend each year from 2013 to 2017.
There was no community consultation when it was first presented by the South Coast Hunters Club as a photographic exhibition but since then it has been expanded with the backing of the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia, to include the sale of guns and ammunition, an air-rifle shooting range, promotion of hunting safaris and activities for children to influence them to regard killing animals as a fun activity.
There has been no community consultation on any aspect of this celebration of hunting and killing animals other than in 2014, when the community was invited to make submissions on whether guns should be sold at the event or not.
After 81% of voters from within the shire said “NO” to this dangerous development, council changed the interpretation of the rules to include the votes of hunters from all over Australia!
Rather than respecting community concerns the licence to continue the hunting event was extended, by possibly illegal means to continue until 2022, disguised as a celebration of outdoor activities. In the words of one councillor it was an event that was deserved no more consideration than a teddy bears’ picnic!” (Teddy bears don’t have guns!)
Residents who oppose HuntFest with sale of guns do so on the grounds that it:
- ruins the reputation of the Unspoilt South Coast
- presents gun ownership as being affordable, desirable and attainable for even the most amateur of shooters;
- risks the well-being of the community owing to the increase in gun ownership;
- is of doubtful legality according to early investigation made by the NSW Environmental Defenders Office who, among other things, criticised the lack of community engagement demonstrated by the Eurobodalla Shire Council in granting the licence.
Opposition has taken the form of petitions, presentations to the Eurobodalla Shire Council and to state parliament, rallies, and letters to state and federal politicians urging some form of government intervention in the dangerous and undemocratic decision making that is being carried out by the local council.
The local opposition group SAFE (Stop Arms Fairs in Eurobodalla) made a submissiont to the Inquiry into Crown Lands (October 2016) that was critical of the use of crown land for sale of guns and of the Eurobodalla Shire Council for approving the use of crown land under its trusteeship for such a purpose. In the inquiry report (General Purpose Standing Committee 4.62) the Auditor- General expressed concern that “community consultation” focused on notification rather than meaningful engagement.
Appeal to readers
We appeal to you as coastal neighbours, many as regular visitors, holiday makers and retirees to the area to add your voices to the many who oppose the incongruous and dangerous idea of this festival: hunting with sale of guns being given approval/encouragement to continue its anti-social animal killing celebration on crown land in the heart of peaceful Narooma.
The Sporting Shooters Association has adopted the logo “Narooma. Home of HuntFest” in defiance of the shire’s image as The Nature Coast.
Don’t let it happen any longer.
Write to the Eurobodalla Shire Council council and/or to the Minister for Crown Lands, either as an individual or as an organization, to impress on them the urgency of cancelling the licencing of publicly owned land to a powerful gun lobby group.