Neighbors can’t venture out at night
Since September 2018 the NSW government has signaled ‘open season’ on Australia’s national emblem, the kangaroo. In this region, it’s the Eastern Grey Kangaroo. An already weak and minimal permit system, lack of monitoring and lack of enforcement of anti-cruelty codes, were helpfully loosened further.
Straight from the colonial handbook that has guided much of wildlife policy in Australia, the National Party put in place this program that is faithfully administered by National Parks under a Coalition government. They say it is to help graziers ‘get the grass back’ in a time of drought, although nothing will get the grass back other than rain and conservative stocking.
The message to landholders and the public is clear: the government supports you shooting the wildlife at your whim. How that is working out — complete with lack of effective action by the local police on related safety concerns — unfolds in the following report. It was written by a neighboring landholder in an area of hobby-farm blocks in the QPRC local government area. The exact location is not divulged. Neighbors, not only in this instance, often voice fears of retaliation from people wielding guns however they like.
THE PROPERTY WAS listed on the market before last Christmas: over 100 acres of land including river frontage and backing on to a national park. The house had been renovated and extended, and all of this in a quiet and peaceful valley setting in a semi-isolated rural community, about half an hour from the nearest town.
Not surprisingly, the property sold quite quickly and it wasn’t long before locals noticed the new family moving in. A few neighbours called in to welcome them but received, as one put it, a bit of a brush-off. “No matter, we’re all neighbours and friends around here.”
A couple of weeks later the shooting started. Four or five nights a week shots would echo through the valley: sometimes only a few shots, sometimes up to 20 over the course of an hour. The body count in one large front paddock, bordered on two sides by the main road through the valley and the track to the national park, mounted.
At one point, a neighbour estimated “dozens” of kangaroo carcasses in that one paddock alone and other carcasses on the public land beyond the property’s fenceline.
Police were notified. They decided to initially treat it as a noise issue and visited the property, reporting back to a complainant that the owner was within his rights to be shooting on his own land but he’d agreed not to shoot after 10pm.
No stock, no matter, is it his right to shoot where and at he wants?
The discussion with the officer who visited went something like: “But he’s shooting towards our properties.” We can’t prove he’s doing anything dangerous.
“There are kangaroo bodies on public land.” We can’t prove they were shot there.
“But we can’t venture outside at night because we don’t know where he’s shooting.” He’s not doing anything unlawful and he has to shoot the kangaroos because there’s just so many of them.
“He has no stock on the property, why is he shooting kangaroos?” He said he’s only shooting foxes at the moment.
“But the dead kangaroos in the paddock …” He’s entitled to shoot kangaroos.
Neighbours, now in greater numbers, complained again to police and finally managed to get the attention of a senior officer, but again it appeared that police were stonewalling. The shooting continued.
Four or five nights a week shots echo through the valley
Night after night and sometimes a two-hour fusillade during the day at a private practice range set up in another paddock. By this time the bodies in the front paddock were rotting, deterring visitors to the nearby national park, attracting vermin and other feral animals and creating a potential public health hazard.
The shooter, a paid-up member of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, was overheard in the local pub one night boasting to his mates about his shooting and loudly saying that the cops had visited but “they can’t do anything”.
Neighbours’ public safety clashes with desire to kill daily
The neighbour closest to the practice range stopped by to ask if the direction of the range could be changed, explaining that he couldn’t put stock on his property as it was well within the range of the shooting. He received a rude response and a refusal to change the direction of the range.
Police were notified and visited the property again. The owner’s response to this visit was to hang a dead fox over his fence as close as possible to his neighbour.
At time of writing we are told that the shooting has abated somewhat, the dead fox has been removed from the fence but the numerous carcasses in the front paddock remain and are stinking and still attracting vermin.
The complainants assume the police visited again and insisted on the removal of the dead fox, but they are disappointed and frustrated in the lack of communication from police on the matter of public safety.
They hold fears of reprisals from a possibly unhinged neighbour, with one local saying “no normal person feels the need to kill on a daily basis.” The link between violence against animals and violence against people is well-documented in the psych literature as well as police records.
This is not a tale from gun-obsessed America. This is an hour-and-a-half from Canberra.
The writer and the neighbours think these are the public interest issues
Putting aside the violence and killing, the rotting carcasses and the belligerent attitude of the shooter, there are issues here that can — must — be dealt with by the government and its agencies.
- Police and public safety: is getting shot proof? Police are hampered in what they can do simply because of the cross-purposes of legislation. The officer-in-charge of the case has said that the firearms legislation is deliberately weak, giving more discretionary powers to police than other laws. However, there appears to be no provision for police to take precautionary action if a person is suspected of shooting recklessly or endangering public safety. Compromising public safety should not need to be proven over and above the right to shoot, especially when the ‘proof’ may end up being a person getting shot.
- Do local authorities know the rules re wildlife? Police told one of the complainants that a property owner didn’t need a permit to shoot kangaroos. The NPWS ranger for the region later confirmed that they do. “It’s easier to get one than it used to be,” he said, “but they certainly need a permit.” Police cannot be expected to enforce laws they know nothing about.
- National Party and NSW Government using wildlife as scapegoats, watering down environmental laws here and elsewhere. With much of the state deep in drought, the popular, but scientifically incorrect, view is that kangaroos need to be ‘culled’ to save the grass. The Nationals are only too happy to perpetuate the myth to ensure support in its heartland, especially given the party’s key role in water mismanagement.The weakening of regulations protecting native wildlife has given recreational shooters and farmers the green light for wholesale slaughter. The new Department of Industry and Environment makes it very clear that industry takes priority over environment and the watering down of environmental laws is an obvious consequence.
- What is the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party telling its members regarding their citizen rights and responsibilities? The SF&F’s NSW website gives its guiding philosophy as “safeguarding our Freedoms, Rights and Culture (sic)”, suggesting an emphasis on US-style gun rights with no responsibilities. While political parties are certainly not responsible for what their members do in their spare time, there are expectations of members as is the case for other political parties.
The SF&F seems to have no such expectations beyond the desire for more rights, and freedom from “oppressive green and red tape.” This, inevitably, leads to some members assuming rights they don’t actually have and exploiting the ones they do.
IMAGERY: Inset/supplied. Main image/District Bulletin editorial archives.