Was it pushed, or did it jump?
THE SOUTH COAST Hunters Club states that:
“Due to conflicting commitments of exhibitors the HuntFest committee has decided to postpone Huntfest for 2019. The committee is resolved to only hold the highest quality expo and this was not achievable this year. The committee is very proud of HuntFest which has run for seven years and injected approximately $5.5 million into local businesses, and donated $15 thousand to local community groups. South Club Hunters Club took part in the local firearms amnesty and resold unregistered firearms.”
Opponents of HuntFest (and there were many) would question the contributions, both social and economic that the South Coast Hunters Club claims to have made to the community and be shocked by the revelation that not only did gun dealers sell guns at HuntFest after 81% of local submissions voted against this inclusion, they also facilitated the on-selling of guns from the recent amnesty. (Registered or unregistered they are still capable of killing.)
Allan Baxter, President of Stop Arms Fairs in Eurobodalla (SAFE) responded to the postponement:
“Great news. Let’s hope it lasts. Despite excuses given for the postponement we like to think that it is due, at least in part, to the unrelenting opposition of SAFE and its supporting members to the sale of guns on public land in Narooma.”
So why is the South Coast Hunters Club and the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia not holding HuntFest this year when the event has been held in the same place since its inception and has been applauded in the local press for its success in attracting visitors and exhibitors?
Will this postponement of Narooma HuntFest lead to bigger and better festivals as Dan Field anticipates, or will it hasten its demise?
Why indeed was such a preposterous use of publicly-owned land approved of by Council without community agreement. Initially disguised as a photographic exhibition and claimed not to be used then as a venue for the sale of guns. As a further insult to the professed ideals of transparency and public engagement, the decision to extend the licence for another five years was made by councillors behind closed doors at a Council meeting in 2016.
The Sporting Shooters Association of Australia, a powerful organisation with the professed aim of weakening firearms regulations, has co-partnered with the South Coast Hunters Club to present past and future celebrations of animal killing. Will they still take place, once the publicity, anger and grief over the New Zealand massacre and gun proliferation fades?
Council observed a minute’s silence at the start of their meeting to remember innocent people killed and injured in the New Zealand gun massacre. Were they perhaps reflecting on the error of their ways in promoting sale of guns, and considering ways to revoke the licence?
They may be relieved to remind themselves that the Terms and Conditions for Hire of Council Facilities states “Council Reserves the right to refuse any booking or cancel any booking already made for whatever reason.”
Many reasons to ban Huntfest have already been presented to the press, in petitions, submissions, presentations to Council and to state and local governments. Reasons include risk to public health, promotion of animal killing as a fun family activity, harm to native animals, danger of gun proliferation, and unrepresentative decision-making on the part of the Eurobodalla Shire Council.
In the words of Greens MLA, David Shoebridge, published in the Bega District News:
“Narooma is a peaceful and tolerant town renowned for a love of nature rather than a love of hunting and killing, and residents are rightly concerned that their reputation will be ruined by this event.
“Not only are firearms a danger to humans, because their presence inevitably makes NSW bushland more dangerous for the people who wish to enjoy nature peacefully, but there has also been a disturbing increase in the number of animals being injured or killed by hunters.
“We’ve mostly also recognised that encouraging a gun culture has done America no favours at all.
“So we started a peaceful, alternative event, celebrating nature as it was meant to be-in the wild, unthreatened, and unharmed by humans.”
As a practical demonstration of opposition to HuntFest, David and the Greens have organised an “Animals in the Wild” photography competition on the 8 and 9 June 2019. This is a photographic celebration of animal life, not death, that will take place again this year, and certainly not morph into a sale of guns.
Shoot with a camera. Not with a Gun.