by Maria Taylor
At the end of February came the sudden news that recreational shooting in National Parks is on hold at least until June as a governance review is put in place of the taxpayer-funded Game Council which issues hunting licenses.
This follows an investigation into alleged illegal trespass and hunting activities by two senior Game Council employees in western NSW.
According to Sydney Morning Herald chief political correspondent Sean Nicholls, Premier Barry O’Farrell told Parliament the report by the Internal Audit Bureau cited evidence of ”alleged illegal activities by one Game Council employee, whom he did not name, and a Game Council volunteer. A copy of the report was given to police”.
Opponents, including the National Parks Association (NPA) and Labor and Green Opposition in the NSW Parliament are now calling for the controversial political trade-off with the Shooters and Fishers Party to be scrapped entirely.
Earlier in the month it was revealed that the O’Farrell government proposed to allocate $19.1 million of taxpayer’s money to facilitate the bloodsport in parks, badged benignly as ‘supplementary pest control’.
The irony is that the context of this deal was to raise, not spend, public money by gaining shooter MLA votes to sell the public-owned electricity generators.
The risks of park staff and users being shot (high powered ammunition can travel three kilometres according to ballistics experts) and the threats to wildlife sheltering in parks are real issues.
“Of course when some people go out in the bush with a gun and see a wallaby or kangaroo, they shoot it. Particularly if they’ve not bagged anything else: it’s a given,” said one well-place observer.
“Mr O’Farrell first promised that he would not ‘turn your national parks into hunting reserves’ and that ‘a limited number of areas under strict conditions’. Now it seems that half the area open to hunting will have no supervision and the hunters will have the same relaxed conditions as in our state forests,” said NPA anti-hunting campaign coordinator Justin McKee, of proposed zones for hunting in a government document before the program was put on hold.
State Forest goings on
Last August, the Tumbarumba Times published an article detailing complaints and anger from some local farmers about the activities of some licensed Game Council shooters, mainly deer hunters, around and in nearby state forests.
Reports from the Tooma and Menagle districts told of trespass on private land, shooting of non-game animals, and intimidation of landholders if they disagree with shooting on their land. One farmer found a bullet hole in the bonnet of his ute. Another suspected the shooting of a wedge-tailed eagle. Access roads have been ripped up and rubbish left on roadsides. The deer were reportedly few and far between.
“Farmers and local residents should not have to live in fear as they do now,” said the article, claiming a lack of Game Council oversight or control.
The Tumbarumba Times correspondent, George Martin, told the Bulletin,”I get ongoing stories about this and things haven’t changed. Even some of the locals who have and use guns are upset.”
Martin also said a lot of people in the surrounding districts are opposed to shooting in national parks and nature reserves.